I have not been able to find my personal credit card for over a month.
I know the last time I used it. I remember doing it. I was at home, in my den. It hasn't been used since. I have checked several times online.
Have scoured the place. Seat cushions turned over. Searched underneath furniture. Looked in usual spots where I put things. In unusual spots where I never puta things.
I probably put it somewhere where I would not forget where it was.
That worked well.
All of this would be vaguely amusing... if I wasn't 60 years old.
I don't pay attention to details. Rarely read recipes all the way through, thinking instead, "I've got this one." Frequently disastrous. Only halfway listen when someone gives me directions, so I have stayed lost most of my driving life. The advent of GPS has saved me countless U-turns.
This flaw exists only in my personal life, by the way. As a therapist, I can remember the name of a patient's childhood Schnauzer. If it seems important.
So now. Trying to discover my Discover card... is it more of the same? Simply my own inattention?
My rational mind says yes.
My irrational mind suggests, "It could be the beginning of something. Of forgetting. Of dementia."
"Dementiaphobia" has been termed as a reality in our culture, with more information available on the disease unintentionally creating more dread. At least for some. We have begun to worry more about it as people are living longer, and we can see for ourselves the neurological damage. Ironically, increased stress in midlife has been shown to have a significant relationship with the development of dementia.
Certainly more motivation to stay in the present.
Researchers at UNT (Hayslip, Page and Wadsworth) suggest that confronting how you feel about aging in general is vital, as well as making sure you have a good support system. (This link is actually a power point presentation, but gives a good breakdown of what we can fear).
Being a burden. Losing our sense of self and our connections with others. Our independence. Fearing how we might be treated.
There is no one who would welcome this diagnosis. Or be somehow "ready" for it when it is heard initially. In many people, there is a condition called "anosognosia". It's similar to denial yet seems to have a neurological basis, rather than a psychological one, meaning it is due to damage to the right brain.
Thus, if I am experiencing early Alzheimer symptoms, I might get angry if someone points out that I forgot something. Or make up an answer to a question that I can't remember correctly (called confabulation). According to the research, my left brain is trying to make sense of what my right brain may be too damaged to encode.
And I don't have a clue. I am not aware that I am impaired.
This can cause all kinds of family struggle and conflict.
There are many excellent support organizations out there:
- The Alzheimer's Foundation of America.
- A website helping you find your own local Alzheimer's support network.
- From Arkansas' own Coach Frank Broyles, the "Coach Broyles' Playbook for Alzheimer's Caregivers" from The Broyles Foundation, begun when his first wife Barbara was diagnosed with the disease.
Maybe I will find my credit card. Maybe I will not.
That problem has an easy resolution.How do I not become dementiaphobic?
I will go out for walks. Work out. As there is some evidence exercise can be helpful. Make sure my brain is getting plenty of oxygen.
Do the other things that I would normally do to keep things running well.
And be mind-ful. Of enjoying each and every day. Stay focused.
Treasure the functioning of this very mind of mine.
At least for now.
Dr. Margaret Rutherford is a clinical psychologist who has been in private practice for over 20 years in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She began blogging in 2012 after her only son left for college, coining the term "NestAche" for her empty nest experience. Not only here on Boomeon, she has been featured on the Huffington Post, Midlife Boulevard, BetterAfter50, BlogHer, Readers Digest, The Cheat Sheet and ArkansasWomenBloggers. Her new eBook, "Seven Commandments of Good Therapy", a basic guide on choosing a therapist or evaluating your current therapy, is available for free on her website. You can find her at DrMargaretRutherford.com or on Twitter @doctor_margaret.
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