The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. –Job 1:12 (If you haven’t read Job in a while, you should do it…it is unforgettable.)
Hi all! Happy Monday. Uhh…err…Tuesday. Yes, I know…I write on Mondays and Fridays…You might ask: “What’s up blog boy??” Well, I forgot. 🙁 I had an article in the chute and I forgot to finish it, then the deadline passed. I have no real excuse other than the busyness of life. I thought about dementia most of the day off and on. It wasn’t like that slipped my mind, Lord forbid. But forgetting to write my blog made me think of an obvious blog article:
10 Things You Can Learn About Dementia From Me Forgetting to Write Yesterday
- Forgetting is inevitable. The National Institutes of Health reminds us in this article that aging can be hard. It states “Forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging. As people get older, changes occur in all parts of the body, including the brain. As a result, some people may notice that it takes longer to learn new things, they don’t remember information as well as they did, or they lose things like their glasses. These usually are signs of mild forgetfulness, not serious memory problems, like Alzheimer’s disease.” I want to focus briefly on the last sentence of this important paragraph. Please don’t hesitate to discuss forgetfulness with your doctor! Some forgetting is normal. I remember the oddest things these days, then forget to…uhhh…write my blog post?!?! It happens. Forgetting just does. However, if you stay on monitoring forgetfulness, should you ever start struggling with the Activities of Daily Living, you can be examined for one of many things that mimic dementia. If it turns out you indeed are struggling with dementia, since you caught it early enough, there are treatments that will extend the relatively earlier stage (not the duration) and buy you some time to do the things you have always wanted to do.
- Forgetting is not an indication of importance. Please never forget this one!!! Write it on a piece of paper and post it on the fridge. When you forget something, it doesn’t mean that it was less important, or more important…it was just forgotten. Period. There are idiosyncrasies in how memory works…lots of them. Sometimes memories are tied to senses…smells, sounds, etc…in a unique way that makes them “stick” better than other ones. I am NOT a memory expert, but I believe that the brain remembers things in a way that helps it with its interconnected memory bank in a different way than we think. Big example: Remembering names versus faces. When we have learned something fully, we can do autopilot processing of that thing. My mom forgot my name over 2.5 years ago…but she “remembers” my face. She looks at me and smiles because she knows I am of her people…of her tribe. Face=my name in her brain. Babies learn that kind of thing quite early…
- Forgetting can be good. I hate that my mom has lost 99% of her memory…but I am thankful for many memories that she no longer endures. The breakups, the deaths, the angst…all gone. Silver lining accepted.
- Forgetting doesn’t change the past. Regret is such an ugly word. I mean, I didn’t like gret enough to justify the re-gret…so why dwell there? I cannot fix the less good parts of my relationship with my mom. I can’t fix the times I rolled my eyes instead of answering the phone, or drove by without stopping. Since I cannot fix them, and it serves no purpose to hash them out, I am actively trying to teach my brain to not live in regret. Her/me forgetting doesn’t change it anyway.
- Forgetting is complicating. Just glance at this basic post. There are all sorts of theories how remembering/forgetting happens. I tend toward emphasizing context cues, but there are many pieces of that puzzle. Helen Keller used different context cues than I do since I see and hear, but she must have had them. There are obviously biological/physical factors involved too. I tend to think of memory as a giant maze of experiences and cues. The paths lead from point A to point B. When we forget, a path is closed and we have to work harder using different cues to find the exit. Senses can help…perhaps Grandma Applegate’s off in the distance is tied to one memories “exit”. Lots of helps in getting from the need of information and the exit…or where the info can be recalled. However, there are a few hinderances too. First is the grumpy old troll. Here is a link to an actual video of him. As we age, the path has taken a beatin’ and there are many other things that distract from recalling what we need. (GOT’s). We generally, sometimes by looking up and to the left, can navigate the annoying obstacles and get to our destined answer. (BTW…according to the same reference, looking up and to the right means we are likely lying. Here is a couple of videos about that: Link and Link) But there’s also an Alzhei-minotaur in them there parts that will keep you running and block exits until it ultimately gets you. The brain…memory/forgetting- is quite a maze.
- Forgetting is cathartic. I love to go to “my” cabin with my wife. No, my blogging doesn’t afford me a lake cabin (or any money, for that matter…you get what ya pay for. 😉 It is an AirBnB. ). One of my favorite things about cabining with my girl is forgetting the stress of everyday life. It is very nice to forget bills, stress, housecleaning, etc…and just vegetate. Apparently I am not the only one. The legal and illegal drug market has never been better. However, the benefit of cabining or drugs is temporary. We still have to face the reality. But, it sure is nice to turn off the brain…and our brain agrees wholeheartedly. That is why autopilot is so important to our brains. We drive the same path, we eat the same foods, we get dressed the same way…all because King Brain says so. It can relax and save up its strength to fight Alzhei-minotaurs. The good thing about cabining is it is good for our brain (especially compared to drugs) as far as letting a tired brain relax. So is sleeping, by the way. Have you found your cabin? Your non-drug happy place? You need to.
- Forgetting is savage. As good as I made forgetting sound at the cabin, it is that bad, in spades, when you forget the wrong thing. Forgetting where you park at Piggly Wiggly isn’t that big of deal. You stumble around a little and perhaps press your car alarm button (and scare someone out of their wig in the process), but it is just a setback. Forgetting how to get home is far worse. But it happens…and often. In Missouri, some forward-thinking geniuses we call Silver Hair Legislators, pushed for and got started a system to alert communities when someone, often with dementia, is missing in our state. Other states have similar. It happens and it leads to terror regardless the outcome.
- Forgetting begets forgetting. Using my maze example above, allow me to expand just a tad. Memories are often, if not always, tied or bundled together. If you forget one thing, it can cause you to have challenges remembering similar things and things that surrounded the lost memory. Maybe this is better explained by a “spider’s web” of memories. A new, fresh spider’s web is complete, symmetrical, and “makes sense“. However, it does break down over time. An occasional junebug breaks this strand and a acorn breaks another… Gaps develop and the path from one side to the other gets harder and harder to navigate until it is gone. When a strand of memories…especially critical ones… is broken, it causes the whole process to be broken.
- Forgetting can lead to harm. Paging Captain Obvious! Please pick up the red courtesy phone. Captain Obvious, the red courtesy phone. Indeed, when we lose the wrong memories and start breaking up essential pathways, our lives are in danger. My mom is in end-stage mixed dementia. Her ability to survive only exists right now because she can still process food, liquid. and air. Amazingly and tragically as dementia hits the wrong spots of the brain, it often damages our memory or our physical ability how to swallow. When mom had her seizure a couple of months ago now, they assumed that the end was near, and let us visit. However, she (by the grace of God) could still function in the essentials and she lives today. There are dozens of ways forgetting causes harm, and there are dozens of articles at the blog sharing them. Tripping/falling, accidents, neglect, car accidents, etc…are a few, but many more exist. This is a truly terrible disease. It is worth your time and money to fight, for your sake, mom’s sake, the Sweet 17’s sake (the 2 that are left), and for the millions of others. In the stress of life, please don’t forget to help organizations who help these harmed folks. Here are 2 worthy of donations and/or volunteering time: Link and Link
- Forgetting is a means of extending grace. Have you been wronged by a loved one regarding the care of your loved one with dementia? Has the one with dementia been the one who wronged you? Have you wronged them? There is a lot that should be said about forgiving and forgetting. Here is a good discussion on the topic. Mad at someone? Extend grace. Feeling bad? Extend yourself grace if needed. Here is a good verse to finish with today that relates nicely to our Christian experience:
“This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (My brain’s translation of this stunning pronouncement: He showed us right and wrong…all of us…and when we repent/place our faith in Him, we become His children and He “forgets” our sins…doesn’t count them as ours).
Update: Nothing new to report. This week our state will be announcing a detailed explanation of our vaccination order and I will commence asking how many have to be vaccinated before we can visit mom and the Sweet 17. Mom gets round 1 this week, so we are still a good 5-6 weeks best case scenario. Frustrating and sad all at once. I will continue to extend grace…I get the problem. The home has lost well over 30 to COVID. However, I sure look forward to seeing her again.