Losing my mind

Alzheimer’s, ,dementia, Parkinsonism, “old timer’s” diseases and autism


I am running out of time. Sometimes it feels very urgent to get my goals accomplished now, before the inevitable struggles with old age catch up to a point where I am overwhelmed.
There seems to be extra urgency for me because my family has a history of dementia/ Alzheimer’s/hardening of the arteries, loss of mental ability among its women.
I did a lot of family history study when my children were small. I noticed a pattern then of suicides among young women up until age 30, and of men over 50 in one family branch. I also learned that women of that same family group were often sent to sheltered care type institutions because they were not able to be cared for at home due to mental deterioration/ loss of function.

I will be 70 this year. Most women who needed care were lost by their mid 70’s, many earlier than that. I may be lucky and avoid that seemingly genetic “thing”.

Health care is much better than in previous generations, as is knowledge of nutrition, self care, and many other contributing factors. Medications for heart and blood pressure problems, and stroke prevention and to help many other common conditons may also play a part in prevention.

I am wary though!
Each time I can’t recall a fact, each time I misplace my keys or forget why I walked into a room, I wonder if I am experiencing signs of mental deterioration.
Never mind that I have been a bit of a “scatterbrain” all my life. That seems to have taken on a new significance now I am getting older.

I understand now that my mother was autistic, and I saw that some of her diagnosis of dementia came from the way she behaved as an autistic. Many of her neurological struggles existed from childhood.
Studies have shown that in some people, Autism mimics stroke injuries in the prefrontal part of the brain. I wonder today how much of my mother’s autistic characteristics were assumed to be brain damage due to stroke. She had tremors which for years were not understood, being diagnosed differently by each specialist she saw. Some said “essential tremor”
some said “parkinson disease” Some said stroke damage… maybe the actual diagnosis is not important, the result was that she was put on strong drugs to control the parkinsons, some of which almost killed her, some of which seem to have had worse side effects than the tremors alone. I was not able to care for her at home. She was not capable of supported living housing, she ended up spending the last years of her life in a mental care/dementia unit of a nursing home.
The emotional pain, constant grief, and worry was continual. I carry tremendous guilt and feelings of failure over my mother’s situation.

I am fearful as well.
I worry I will end up in an institution like my mother.

I worry about being a burden to those I love. I think about what I can do now to try to avoid those things. Self care has never been more important. A long life of bad habits has slowly been changed to healthier behavior. I don’t have any idea if it will do any good, but doing healthier things will at least not harm me.

Does your family have a pattern of health issues ? Do most family members die of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, cancer, or other health issues? Are you looking into what things you can do right now to help yourself live a healthier life with better chances of staying independent or needing less care?

I urge you to look into ways you can change your health now, for a better future as you age.
You will be buying time with those you love, helping yourself be independent as you age, and improving your health and well being if you make self care part of your plans for the future, no matter how much time you might have left. ( we never know, do we, in spite of clues from the past?)

Make sure right now your loved ones know what you would like in case of sudden need for care, and make sure that those you care about are cherished, enjoyed, and loved for whatever time we have left, and what ever the future brings.