Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fools ... News From The Funny Farm....

I note that it has been nearly three months since I last posted.  Here it is, three months done on 2014 already. I do know that time does fly by when you are older.   Although I write a private personal flog six days a week for some of my friends, I do not post to this site as often.  As my diagnosis seems unclear, I have less to say I suppose  The good news is that the Army approved the payment for a new PET scan to be done on 25 April to see if I have any signs of FTD, or Frontotemporal Dementia.  One of my doctors used to say...   "Alzheimer's is dementia, but not all dementia is Alzheimer's."   So maybe after that test, we may know more about what kind of fool I am after all...

Meanwhile... along those lines, I follow the blogs of several others like me on this foolish journey to wherever we all are headed.   One of the blogs I like best is written by a retired physician, David Hilfiker.  Like me, he does not have Alzheimer's, but his symptoms are certainly a lot more troubling than mine.  See the link to his blog below.

David Hilfiker:  A Memoir of an Uncertain Mind

"Watching The Lights Go Out"
Despite some of his odd symptoms, he still writes very well.   If you are at all interested in this topic, it might be worthwhile to go back and read his posts from the beginning if you have the time.  Also valuable are the comments and responses many of his posts generate. Here's one of his recent ones...

And like him... I deal with with life's afflictions too...  what else are you going to do?

Monday, March 17, 2014 by David Hilfker


Washington DC

Ever since I announced that I don’t have Alzheimer’s but some other form of cognitive decline, I’ve had friends and acquaintances say something like: “I heard the good news!  I’m so happy that you’re better.”  In one way, they’re right, of course.  Having a stable cognitive decline of uncertain cause is better than having inevitably progressive Alzheimer’s disease.  If “better” means “back to normal,” however, then I’m not better.  I have by no means regained my cognitive losses. 

I notice my impairment in three areas: difficulty in finding the right word, forgetfulness, and occasional confusion.  The word-finding problem probably annoys me the most.  I was an intellectual.  I still do some teaching.  For me, communicating has always meant finding the precise word to express myself.  If I want to tell you I’m feeling “frustrated,” synonyms won’t do it.  I don’t mean I’m “irritated,” or “upset” or “disturbed.”  I mean I’m frustrated.

Forgetfulness: I can’t count on my memory anymore.
  •  Have we met before?  It’s my first question on meeting a new person in church.  I just can’t remember.  So I ask.
  • What did we decide at the last meeting?  I have no idea.  If I hadn’t written it down or reviewed it before today’s meeting, it’s disappeared.
  • What did I agree to do before Sunday?  I don’t remember agreeing to do anything.  Everything has to be written down and reviewed.
  • Without my calendar I have no idea what my week looks like.
It’s the intermittent confusion, however, that’s the most bothersome.
  • I was downtown earlier this week and got off the bus to walk the four blocks to my doctors office.  I wasn’t lost; I knew exactly where I was.  I knew where the office was.  DC is laid out in a grid, so there’s no confusion about how the streets go.  I ordinarily have a good sense of direction.  This time, however, I got completely turned around and got to the office only by guessing.
  • Several days ago I was helping a friend.  She was working 21 hours a week and getting paid $900 a month.  What was her hourly wage?  This is not college calculus.  She’s working three hours a day for thirty days in the month, which is $10 an hour.  But I got into multiplying 21 hours by four weeks (84 hours per four weeks) and then trying to estimate the fraction of the fifth week in every month; soon I had to get my pencil out and even then I got confused.
None of these is a big deal.  My impairment isn’t getting worse.  I’m enjoying myself as much as I ever have.

But I don’t want people to think that I’m cured.  I can’t quite explain that, but it has something to do with wanting an honest relationship between us.  Whatever.  In a longer conversation with anyone who’s actually interested, of course, it’s not difficult to describe the situation more fully.  What bothers me is how to respond to someone in the elevator (see here and here) or when meeting each other at the checkout counter.  I think the answer is to suck it up.

It occurs to me that my situation is not that different from many older people with arthritis in their knees, bladder problems, generalized weakness, or widespread aches and pains.  Most of the time, when I ask those older folks how they are, I don’t really want to know!  I’m not interested in hearing their “organ recital.”  I want to express my happiness with their recent successful surgery or hospital discharge or express my concern for them.  What I want from them is a smile and “Oh, I’m doing as well as can be expected.” Or “It’s going okay.”  “Or, yes, I’m happy the surgery went as well as it did.”  If they’re smart, those aching older people will make very sure I want to know before they tell me the truth.

It’s no different for me.  Usually people want to hear I’m okay, that my life is going well, that I’m relieved about not having Alzheimer’s.  They would prefer, at least for the time being, not to enter into my pain.  I can deal with it.  Mostly.

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