Dementia is Like Swiss Cheese

Leah Health Guide
  • I think that sometimes it is better to not know a diagnosis...  It seems that once a diagnosis is made, your fate seems doomed.  It is easy to get into the mode that the end is inevitable... it is easy to want to just stop living... to let the end come... the fear of the "inevitiable" is caustic. 


    I am sorry to be so pessimistic at this moment.  Sometimes, though, things happen which send me into a tailspin.  I begin questioning my abilities... I worry that my dementia is worsening.  I need to write about what happened.  Case in point:


    I am visiting my daughter and granddaughter.  My brilliant sixteen year old granddaughter is grappling with an eating disorder, and her mother and I are struggling to deal with it. We are working to support her, to get her the help she needs.  I helped to raise her for the first twelve years; therefore, my granddaughter and I have almost a mother/daughter relationship, and, at times, we are almost like sisters. 

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    Knowing how close we are, you may better understand my dismay.  Yesterday, as we sat outside her high school, we began talking about her middle school.  She said she had gone there for only eighth grade.  I was confused.  That was two years ago, where had she gone for the first two years of middle school?  I had to ask her where she had gone to school for sixth and seventh grade...  Incredulously she answered,  "We were living with you, Grandma!"  It was as if she couldn't believe I didn't remember...


    (That's another issue we are dealing with.  She doesn't fully understand, admittedly, what dementia is.  I appear pretty normal to her... I am having to educate her about dementia at the same time I am trying to support her as she begins her trek from the eating disorder, trying not to lay any more pressure or anxiety on her than I can...)


    Back to my story:  I did not remember the last two years she had lived with me! Realizing that has shaken me to the core!  I think, well, maybe it was just a senior moment...and maybe my not remembering is normal... I think that, maybe with some additional time to figure it out, I might have remembered she was living with me up until three years ago...  I just don't think it is normal to have forgotten that...


    I've always been a high achiever.  I've pushed myself to be the best I can be -- and better than those around me, if it was at all possible.  Now, with such a hole in my memory, I am getting frustrated with myself. There's this big void... I remember twenty years ago, but can't remember three years ago... or yesterday... I feel my memory is like Swiss Cheese.  Some memory I can grasp, much I cannot.  Much knowledge is spontaneous and irratic.  It's strange feeling.   Some days I am able to accept it better than others...


    I am doing all I can to keep the dementia from worsening.  I remain as busy as I can.  I'm involved in any number of volunteering activities.  I work at my BrainAge2 game daily.  I do crosswords, play cards, use the internet to do whatever research I can on dementia and other subjects.  I read maps and explore new places online (though it doesn't stick in my memory, it is interesting at the moment).  I try to keep up with the news, but most of this seems to go in one ear and out the other.  I am able to remember details a little better.  I can follow a recipe with a great deal of concentration.  I rarely can remember movies I've seen, but...


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    I can.  I can.  I can.


    I need to remember the "I can's" and push the limits of the "I can't's". Living with a positive attitude will help me more than just giving in.  Maybe I couldn't remember where my granddaughter lived three years ago, but I CAN remember to hug her and help her (just my presence seems to help) with her advanced classwork, etc...I can remember to call her daily or write her by, I guess my life's not so bad, after all...and the big D (dementia) can just go away and leave me alone!

Published On: May 22, 2008