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The Unkind Reality Of Dementia

Feb 11, 2008
Reality does not often disappear from our minds in a poof of misfortune. It seems as if it slowly drifts away like one's eyesight or hearing. Ever so slowly the ability to reason, remember or make good judgments recedes like high tide dissolves into the waves.

Have you ever tried to reason with someone suffering from a mental impairment? Their reality is often skewed and what was once a rational being seems to be lacking the ability to clearly translate the events of a day. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of having a friend or family member slip into the murky world of dementia is that they seem to retain many of their emotional feelings. They may be misdirected or subject to change, but the human feelings of love, hate disgust, hope and all others in our emotional purse seem to persist even as the remainder of the mind suffers from diminished capacity.

The story has been recounted in the press several times of former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's husband who suffers from Alzheimer's disease and is confined to a nursing facility. Seems he has developed a relationship with another patient and proudly announces he is in love with her. He possesses virtually no memory of his decades long marital relationship with his wife. The perceptive O'Connor seems to understand how the disease has destroyed the brain of her once astute and articulate husband. Sadly, he is probably unaware of his circumstance.

Can we protect ourselves from this malady associated with aging? There are literally dozens of studies taking place to evaluate the effectiveness of preventive medications, healthful lifestyles, cognitive activity and a host of other potential treatments or inhibitors of this disease. Since more than half of all nursing home inhabitants suffer from some sort of dementia and the baby-boom population is rapidly aging, there is a degree of effort directed at identifying causes and potential treatments that has not been seen before. There is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that remaining physically active and engaging in cerebral activities may stave off the effects, but the studies are presently inconclusive.

In one's golden years perhaps the best defense is a good offense. Enjoy what life has to offer, stay as physically active as possible and take part in cognitive activities to exercise the brain. Dementia seems to strike the idle at higher rates, but the causes remain elusive. Given that present fact, one should enjoy each day to its fullest.
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