Living with Memory Gaps, Living with Dementia
Science tells us that it is common to forget from time to time where you put your keys, or to turn off a light, or to not remember if you turned off the coffee pot. Forgetfulness can be caused by increasing age, stress, etc. Forgetting names? That, too, can happen as you age. Not until your lack of memory really interferes in your life should you worry.
I’d like to tell you about what it is like to live with very little short term memory. I have touched upon it in past blogs.
This past weekend, my husband and I were out doing errands. We headed into a car wash, a relatively new one for the community. I got all excited. “Oh, good! We’ve never been in this one! Now I can see how this one works!” (I don’t know why I would get so excited over a carwash…) My husband said, “No, we’ve been to this one before.”
I looked at him blankly. When did we go there? How could I not remember? I racked my brain and there was NO recollection of it anywhere to be found. Imagine someone saying to you, “You met President Bill Clinton yesterday.” (Of course, we are imagining here. You, of course, didn’t really meet him.) When you are told something that you have NO KNOWLEDGE of it can be disconcerting, to say the least. That total lack of KNOWING is what it is like for me. Big blanks throughout the day. Nothingness…
At another time, my husband and I were swapping out our summer clothes for our fall/winter wardrobe. I had been shopping lately for some nicer clothes to use during my teaching times with my Strenthening Your Mind classes. I could not remember having any other “dressy” stuff. Working together, Bill said to me, “Don’t forget. You have a nice pants suit in the other closet that you were going to use for teaching.” Total blank. He described it. Still a total blank. Then, he showed it to me. I remembered it after I saw it, but I had had no recollection of it until then. I found that I didn’t have much memory of any of the clothes I had put away last March. Getting them out was almost like Christmas! Opening each closed container held surprises.
I do remember things I use every day, like my favorite pots and pans and George Foreman grill. Things I don’t use everyday I might remember I have them, but then I can’t remember where they are. I spend lots of time just searching for things. I must admit, though, that I do now recognize the vacuum cleaner and even remember to use it from time to time. Today, I am hoping to clean out the refrigerator…if I remember to do it after writing this blog. I look around the house, and I see many unfinished projects: haven’t ironed the curtains yet; haven’t started my October scrapbook/journaling; haven’t charged my phone, Nintendo 2, camera; haven’t numbered my duckies for our Duck Pond game at our upcoming family reunion…
When I leave my home (I am still driving), I usually use our new GPS system which tells me audibly where to turn. I feel reassured that even if I forget how to get home, I’d be able to do it using the GPS. I think it’s a great investment for peace of mind. I recommend getting one if you are truly concerned about your memory or that of a loved one with dementia. We plan on taking it with us on our next vacation, even using it if we are walking through an unknown town.
Writing notes helps. The other day, I found an old note that said “Vacuum cleaner”. At one time, we had had to label things as mundane as that. I don’t need to identify things with a note anymore. I do still have to make notes to remind myself to do things, though. (Guess I’d better make a list of the things above so I have a visual to help me.)
I attribute any improvement in my memory to Aricept, a medication used in early and moderate dementia. I believe I am experiencing more energy, too. I attribute that to the acupuncture I am doing. Unfortunately, my insurance company is one which does not recognize, nor pay for, acupuncture. I’ve had to slow down on it as it is taking a chunk out of my pocketbook. From all I’ve read, one should get acupuncture twice a week at first, eventually getting to once a month.
If any readers want to share their experiences and feelings about short term memory loss, I would love to hear from you! Let’s lay it out so that caregivers out there may have a better understanding of their loved ones who may not be able to express what it’s like.