Please note, this post was written prior to my dementia diagnosis.
As most of my readers know, I’ve been dealing with memory and cognitive decline for seven years now. During those years I’ve read scores of documents and heard many suggestions about how to possibly delay or reduce symptoms of the condition—all of which encourage exercise, healthy diets, reducing one’s stress, getting good sleep, and socializing.
I’ve been a faithful follower of these practices—even before my diagnosis—and believe they have, in part, slowed the progression of my disease.
I remain a faithful walker and rarely miss a day. Even in winter when the weather is too cold for a walk outside, I use the treadmill. And thanks to my husband Keith, I eat healthy home-prepared foods—very few sweets (except for my treat of a small bowl of chocolate ice cream nearly every night), lots of grains, fruits, and vegetables, and drink water in place of other liquids.
I meditate every morning for about 15 or 30 minutes, along with reading from my library of inspirational books, essays, and devotions by authors I admire. My current favorite is The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver. I have no difficulty getting a good night’s sleep. I do believe all of these practices have had a positive effect of staving off and slowing the progression of my dementia. (Note I did not use the word “cure.”)
For the most part, maintaining these helpful recommended habits has not been difficult or onerous…except in the area of socializing. The “experts” recommend staying engaged socially, but for a variety of reasons, it’s been difficult to accommodate this recommendation. At least five years ago I started to avoid social gatherings and crowds, because I couldn’t keep up with the mixture of conversations. I resigned from my community activities and boards when I realized I couldn’t be a contributing member due to my shortened memory and sometimes faulty judgement. I was pleasantly surprised that I felt relief rather than regret—however now, as the virus has continued and even more isolation is necessary, I’m feeling the loss of conversing in person with my family and dear, close friends.
My daughter, son-in-law and adult grandchildren continue to observe our long tradition of sharing Sunday meals together, but Keith and I have opted to stop attending for fear of COVID. I really, really miss the face-to-face time. This is also true of visiting in person with dear friends. Before the weather changed, I frequently shared a casual afternoon with a friend, sitting distanced on our front porch. Like ‘old times,’ we chatted and laughed, reminisced, and caught up on ever-changing families. But no longer. I absolutely agree that social distancing is necessary; nevertheless, I recognize that social isolation is an unhealthy practice for humans and may in fact contribute to accelerating my condition.
But once again my “college gals” came to the rescue when they introduced me to Zoom. For months now we have gabbed online, laughed, and cried, showed off our projects of knitting, crocheting, or embroidering, and joked about our new self-cut hair styles. Quickly my zooming has expanded (like everyone else’s) into video chats with my son in Boston, friends in town and even my family in Estonia. What a joy to see faces of folks I love—especially my five-year-old great granddaughter, who sits on the sofa and wiggles and giggles as she holds up her pint -sized iPad to show me her new doll or lets me read a part of her favorite book to her.
At the present, I’m doing my best to not forecast how long social distancing will last; rather, I’m trying to take one day (or sometimes minute) at a time, and accept what is. Just as I’ve learned to do regarding my dementia diagnosis. Forecasting is a wasted activity because I have no influence of what tomorrow will bring. I need to focus on today, minute by minute.
I’ll close this post with the truth that I often project in my writings more strength and courage than I actually feel. I frequently ask, ‘Why me?” And always hear the same response: “Why not me?”