Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dementia - Stealing our Present and Erasing our Past

I had a great grandmother who was a funny old lady.  She told stories of time gone by with a smattering of off color jokes and inappropriate details.  She was known for saying the strangest things at the dinner table.  She caused more than one person to drop their jaw or spill their salad dressing.  She was great, and she had dementia.

A recent report from King's College London is estimating over 115 million people will suffer from dementia by the year 2050.  There will be 35 million people afflicted with dementia by next year.  It obvious the numbers are going up.  It is a significant irony that the increases in nutrition and health care, especially in rural areas and low to middle income countries, are responsible for increasing the life expectancy of the population and thus dementia.  The older people live, the more likely they are to experience dementia, including Alzheimer's.

Dementia is not just an inconvenient lack of memory.  It changes how a person relates to their family and how they view the world around them.  There are annoying habits, such as repetitive questions or the retelling of the same story continually, but there are also dangers, such as not knowing how to get home or who to trust.  My great grandmother was known to wonder off, and even left a hotel room once without ID or a way to get back.  My great grandfather was beside himself and eventually found her on a street corner in an unfamiliar town.

You may be wondering why this is an important issue for Prepared Binder to discuss.  In fact it is closely related to our mission and goal as a company.  Preparing for emergencies is what we do.  Losing ones ability to remember facts and details can create an emergency down the road.  We all believe we will be the exception to the dementia trend, but the sad truth is that many of us won't be.  If we don't take the time to write down the things we know they will be lost forever.

I encourage you to start with your parents or older relatives and collect the information identified in Prepared Binder - Home Edition.  Use the upcoming holidays to go through the details with them and write things down.  When you have collected the information you need from your older relatives continue with your own.  Taking the time to document your information will be an invaluable asset down the road.

I am sure there are a large number of people reading this who wonder why they should bother.  They are young and have no immanent risk of personal dementia.  This may be true, but now is the time to start.  By making it a habit to write things down you will develop a lifelong skill which will help you stay organized.

My great grandma was famous for two statements. First was, " My Grandmother was a Cherokee Indian,"  The second was, " My Daddy was a school teacher."  We heard that 5- 10 times an evening and we would chuckle each time.  As a child I remember the day she looked blankly at my mother and said, " My Daddy did something, but I can't remember what."  There was an instant silence in the room.  My mother quietly looked at her and said, "Your Daddy was a schoolteacher."  She brightened and said, "You knew my Daddy?" Looking around the room I saw tears in the eyes of our family. Dementia had taken not only her current life, it was erasing her past.

I encourage you to take this opportunity to write things down.  Don't wait until the details are fuzzy and the picture has faded.

Today's Question:  What have you done to save your current life for the future?

If you would like to read the BBC article on dementia, please click here.

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