Monday, March 1, 2010

Here comes a problem . . . Dementia

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About a year ago I began to experience short term memory loss. Being over 70 I thought it was more or less normal. Then it got worse. My cardiologist suggested that  I not be too concerned, it's just part of aging. Months passed and it became more of a problem. My family doctor determined that it could be the first sign of alzheimers or something else, but to find out for certain I would have a CT Scan. The resulting xrays of my brain indicated no sign of alzheimers but clear pictures of  "early on-set dementia".

There is a technical difference between alzheimers and dementia. I don't know what it is, but I am experiencing a continuing loss of memory. It's getting worse.  Short term stuff; say earlier today and back for a few months. That time is almost lost. My memory seems to fade in and out.  A small reminder may bring back an entire selection of memories. It's strange the way it happens. When I wake in the morning I have to think hard about what day of the week it is. I just don't know.

My long suffering wife tells me to do something. I say I will. Within a half hour to an hour I  have forgotten all about it.  So far I haven't been lost or confused about where I am or where I am going, but I am beginning to have a few seconds of doubt once in a while. I've not yet not lost my name identification ability except for people introduced to me recently. If I say I will do something, or promise to do something, it MUST be written on notes,  and the notes put where I will see them often.  At our house the notes we stick them to the microwave door at eyeball height. It usually works.

The ever present concerns are:

                (1) How fast is the deterioration.
                (2) How bad can it get.
                (3) Can I do anything to stall the process of loss.

More later . . .
It's later . . .

MY MAJOR WORRY. I have several very good doctors,  yet I keep trying to figure out symptoms.  My main complaint is the increasingly rapid memory loss. I pretty much know where this dementia is going, and I have a persistant vision of eventually being a living vegetable. This is not a nice vision to carry around.

All of the people I know (and have known), eventually do get old. Sometimes gracefully and sometimes not. A very high percentage of people over 80 do have some level of  dementia or alzheimers disease. Why? Could it be our foods, toxic chemicals, lack of exersize, or something else?  I have a theory based on my personal experience. There is a good chance that is is completely worthless. On the other hand there is a tiny chance that it isn't.

SLEEP APNEA.  I've had this condition for at least 30 years. When I nap or sleep I snore unevenly and sometimes wake with an abrupt start.  I often wake with an gasp or choking sensation. These are two significant symptoms of sleep apnea.  Recent sleep testing in a medical environment shows that I STOP BREATHING FOR AN INSTANT 27 TIMES AN HOUR during the night. I rarely dream, or if I do I have no knowledge of it. When I sleep I usually make restless movements all night. I turn over, sleep on one side and then on the other, stay on my back for a while, move my feet, curl up then straighten, and so forth. Everytime I  involuntarily gag while snoring,  it triggers a reflex due to the  deprevation of oxygen.
The theory is: that when a person stops breathing, even if only for a moment, the BRAIN is temporarily deprived of the oxygen it must have to sustain it's life.

Without a steady supply of oxygen the brain can not function and will and will slowly begin to die. Is it possible that the cumlative effect of sleep apnea over many years may contribute to the slow detirioration of brain cells?

Short term memory loss is the often the first indication of a problem. If not corrected by drugs, or by the use of a [positive air pressure] C-Pap machine, or by itself, the memory loss will gradually get worse.

More later . . .
Later

READING BOOKS.  I have acquired a few thousand books. For years I tended to read at least one book every week. Since I retired (2 years ago) I've been reading at least  two books a week. I've asked myself why I read more now. Surprisingly, I think that I am reading more because I remember less.  I know, at first this doesn't make sense, but think about it.  Short term memory loss does not impair cognitive ability. When reading I understand what I read perfectly, but when I put the book down it isn't long before I have forgotten what I previously read.

A person tends to develop a discriminating idea of which books might be of interest, and it might change over time. My interests used to be; books about the sea, adventure novels, spy stories, and books about war. There has been a gradual change. I now find myself reading; history, historical novels, non-fiction, and books about politics. The change is  easily seen as I check the book spines on my book shelves. My wife claims there will be no room for the furniture if I don't stop collecting books. She does have a point, and about once a year I donate boxes of books to the Salvation Army.  Despite the boxes  going out the door -  more books seem to be coming in. One day I asked myself why?

As my short term memory slowly closes down,  I need to read the morning newspaper or turn the TV on to the morning news to find out what day it is. When I go to the book store I tend to look at books in my favorite categories. About five years ago I found myself buying books I had read before. It started to be a real problem. Today, when I see an interesting new book  -  I write down the title and search my book shelves for a duplicate before buying. It's a pain but it works. I've not bought a duplicate since last November. Now I can tell my wife that is why my collection has a purpose.

P.S.  When I read books with a complex subject matter, I tend to forget elements from the first part of the book by the time I get to the end. To give myself reminders of what came before, I have started high-lighting key sentences or paragraphs as I go along. It helps.

More later . . .
Later

DRIVING A CAR.  My Dad gave up driving when he was 85, and lived until he was 92. When he was about 80 he was barely proficient. He was then quite deaf in his right ear and partially deaf in his left. My parents drove everywhere together. My mother directed where he should point the car by making a hand signal. We were concerned that his doctor didn't tell him he should no longer drive. The family hinted that he should stop, but never insisted. 

In their 80's my parents lived in a small and friendly trailer park only a few blocks from stores. Their circle of activities had grown smaller over the years, and they seldom drove further than 8 to 10 miles from their home. Dad kept saying that he was always very careful - and my mother said he drove just fine. He drove about 5 years longer than he should have.

Regarding myself, I am very much aware of my short term memory loss . . . and my mild hearing loss as well. So far I have not experienced any problem driving. None at all. At the same time I am concerned about what the future will bring. I've read articles and books on the subject and found that while my early on-set dementia is noticeable, it may or may not get worse. If it does get worse it may be very slowly.  Apparently it is quite possible that I may not have to give up driving for several more years.  I've also found that like most older drivers my eyesight and hearing should cause me to slow down and concentrate. Otherwise, driving is much like riding a bicycle. My memory loss will have to get much worse before I have to give it up.  And I WILL give it up when it's time to do so.
More later . . .
  




  
 



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4 comments:

Greybeard said...

One of the few problems that affects others more than it does the victim...
Eat right, exercise, and rest well, Dix.
Fight it hard as you can.

Greybeard said...

Just read your update. I think your observations could bear some research. Press on.

My Grandfather had dementia during the last five years of his life. He was on a 15 minute "endless loop" tape...
Would tell you a story about his youth, then 15 minutes later would tell you the same story in EXACTLY the same way... same tempo, same inflection, same words. I started responding to him in the most outlandish way I could to see if that would cause him to remember he had already told the story, but to no avail. He had totally forgotten what he said 15 minutes ago. Still, he was otherwise healthy, and was not an unhappy man.
Doing a little research because of him we found one thing:
The brains of alzheimer's patients frequently have high levels of aluminum. My Grandfather always had a bottle of "Rolaids" close by because he suffered from acid reflux. The active ingredient in Rolaids at the time was aluminum chlorhydrate. I still believe it may have had something to do with his dementia.
(He was also a heavy snorer.)

Bumps Stump said...

Greybeard . . .Thanks for your comments. Really appreciated. Have decided to go ahead and describe my experiences a bit further.

Also, will look into aluminum as a possible link. And have you read the latest about magnesium. A Dr. Inna Slutsky of Tel Aviv University suggests that animal research shows magnesium may not only improve memory but also delay the effects of dementia and other cognitive diseases related to aging.

She cautions: Over the counter mag pills don't seem to work. A new mag supplement; magnesium-L-theronate (MgT)does.

Interesting stuff this. . .

Dixon

viagra online said...

My dad has this and it is really sad but annoying at times as he never remembers anything i tell him .