Memory: It’s a Loss for Everyone, or Is It?
by Paula Gibson
Memories are what sustain and fulfill our lives. The memory of being thrown in a deep lake before we learned to swim may cause us to feel fear when our skin comes in contact with water. Just as the scent of cinnamon rolls baking in the oven can fill our being with warmth at the memory of our mother’s floured hands buttering these delectable Sunday morning treats.
These snippets of time do more than just make up the years of our lives. They help us remember who we are, where we have been, and where we are going. They make up our dreams and help us dream for tomorrow. They connect us to each other with threads of communication that need no verbal description.
So what happens when a loved one suffers from memory loss? This disease, whether it is Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body or one of the other 70 types of dementia, steals these memories and much, much more.
However, it doesn’t always take every memory. One may still hold that fear of water while forgetting those Sunday morning breakfasts. They may remember one child, but forget the five others that they love just as much.
Unfortunately, it is not just the memory of our loved one that changes, but those of everyone involved in their care. It may start with the loss of personal memories. For instance, perhaps Dad has told the story of his first car many times, but now he looks to you, his caregiver, to fill in the information. Do you know the color? Do you know the make and model? How many of us take the time to truly remember our loved ones’ memories or even our own for that matter?
In addition, this disease causes many caregivers to begin the grieving process long before it is needed. This is a very common occurrence since dementia takes away the future dreams that we had for our loved one. It robs them of their memories of playing catch with their grandsons or dancing at their 50th wedding anniversary. With this disease, the future is unknown and seemingly deplete of personally recalled memories.
Often caregivers get so wrapped up in the care they are providing that they stop looking for the memories they are or could be making. It’s true that Grandpa can’t play catch anymore, but we could get Grandpa’s baseball glove out and let the grandson play with it, while sitting next to Grandpa and learning what position Grandpa played, his favorite team, etc…
Yes, this memory may not be captured by Grandpa, but it will be by his grandson and by you. Odds are the next time you feel leather against your skin or hear the crack of a bat, your memory will transport you back to this moment.
The reality is these memories are what will sustain caregivers throughout the disease process. The moments of laughter and tears will make the gradual and final loss not so great. Yes, memories are lost due to the disease of dementia, but if handled and made correctly they can live on through you and everyone involved in their care.
Paula Gibson is the Community Relations Director for Azura Memory Care, a safe, loving and secure environment for those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in the Eau Claire area. Paula is also a member of the Chippewa Valley Family Caregiving Alliance and co-facilitator of the Eau Claire County Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia Awareness Support Group. In addition, Paula is available to speak on topics related to caregiving, brain health, memory loss and positivity. Please contact Paula at (715) 577-3600 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Stay Sharp! 1. If you are in a dark room with a candle, a wood stove and a gas lamp. You only have one match, so what do you light first? 2. Can you complete this grid of letters. Each line is a valid 5 letter word with its first and last letter missing. The missing letters form a word when read downwards and the same word appears both at the start and at the end. What is the missing word? _AGL_ _ABE_ _LUR_ _UTD_ _IDO_ 3. What is represented by this BrainBat? AOBLNUECMOEON 4. Can you find a five digit number which has no zeros, no digit is repeated, where: The first digit is a prime number. The second digit is the fifth digit minus the first digit. The third digit is twice the first digit. The fourth digit is the third digit plus three. The fifth digit is the difference between the first digit and the fourth digit. 5. Fred Smith bought a used car for $4,000 and sold it to Alice for $5,000. Fred later bought it back for $6,000 and then resold it to Alan $7,000. How much profit did Fred make? ANSWERS: 1. The Match 2. The missing word is ELBOW. EAGLE LABEL BLURB OUTDO WIDOW 3. Once in a blue moon: [ONCE in ‘A Blue Moon’]. 4. 23,475. Don’t forget that 1 isn’t a prime number, so 13,254 isn’t allowed. 5. $2,000. Imagine Fred started with $20,000; after buying the car he would have had $16,000. He then sold it to Alice, which left him with $21,000 and then bought it again leaving him with $15,000. Fred finally sold it again leaving him with $22,000. So Fred’s profit was $2,000. Alternatively, you can see that Fred spent a total of $4,000 + $6,000 = $10,000 and received a total of $5,000 + $7,000 = $12,000, resulting in a difference of $2,000.Puzzles devised by © Kevin Stone [www.brainbashers.com]. Reprinted with permission from Kevin Stone
Brain Boosters …
Roughly 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and those numbers are expected to more than triple by 2050. Certain supplements show promise in elderly patients with dementia, but unfortunately “where brain-health supplements are concerned, there’s no real data to guide what a healthy, middle-aged person should be doing,” says Dr. Barry Oken, a professor of neurology and behavioral neuroscience at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. Still, if you’re at high risk for the disease, many experts recommend the following supplements listed below.
Omega 3 Fatty Acid These essential fatty acids appear to have a crucial influence on neurotransmitters in the brain by helping cells better communicate with each other. Dosage: up to 3,000 mg per day split among three doses.
Folic Acid Supplementing with folic acid is shown to improve cognitive function in adults. If you don’t eat a lot of fortified foods such as cereals and store-bought bread, taking a supplement might help. It probably won’t hurt either. Dosage: 400 micrograms each day.
Vitamin C and Vitamin E Large daily doses of the antioxidant vitamins C and E in studies have shown to reduce your likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease. When choosing a vitamin E supplement, make sure you look for one that contains natural mixed tocopherols. Dosage: 500 to 1,000 mg of vitamin C per day; 400 to 1,000 IU of vitamin E.