Yesterday I spent some time with my mother in law.
Our relationship is quite a special one which I treasure.
My husband's first wife died quite young and her mum is now my mother in law.
At 86 years of age she has had her share of joy and grief. Her husband died before her daughter. So she didn't have his shoulder to lean on or his arms to find her comfort in. Her childhood years were in an era that was so differed to ours - In today's world we discuss emotions and feelings. Talk about our problems and seek help for issues beyond our thinking.
Not in those earlier years. One didn't 'go to a councillor' when the going got tough. And yes, they got tough. Large families, small incomes and even smaller houses. Time together as a family was a precious commodity and treated with the utmost respect. You went to birthdays of your grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. ( I am somewhat generalising here - that goes without saying)! It is difficult to describe a sole existence of any one given situation when one wants to 'paint a picture' without actually having been there. I relate as I perceive the information I receive via stories told.
What I want to portray - is a portret of a strong woman - fabricated that way due to her perception of her world, her experiences and her drive to be independent and not 'burden' others with her tribulations. Her reflections and revelations about her youth and subsequent adult life have been a privilege to be audience to. I have a huge amount of affection and respect for this person who I am allowed to call Ma.
Anyway, I spent time with her yesterday and the subject of 'dementia and forgetfulness' was topic of the day. At one point ( we were doing some late spring cleaning) Ma said- " now why did I want to go upstairs?" She returned to the lounge and said, " do you remember why I wanted to go upstairs?" We looked at each other and laughed. "oh ma," I said, "don't tell me you are becoming forgetful!" Because we both get a bit het up when every time someone ( somewhat of age) forgets something- it is assumed this person is traveling down the road to forgetfulness, to dementia or alzheimer.
Now don't get me wrong- it is a horrible and devastating condition. And I am the last person to say that these illnesses are a laughing matter. THEY ARE AWFULL beyond words.
BUT: What I want to draw attention to - is the almost 'threatening' comment when someone, especially an older person, receives when they openly admit to having forgotten where they left their key, their purse, can't remember the long list of shopping or someone's birthday.
PLEASE; don't say " oh it's your age. Many people go senile, get dementia when they get older!" OR especially when you know the person well or the family background, " Oh forgetfulness it runs in the family. Granddad had alzheimer too!" Yes people these are some of the statements I hear around me.
To forget something DOESNT mean someone is 'losing grip on life and reality'. It simply means that one's head is full of information and it is crowded in the grey matter. Buy stating some of these negatives it is more than possible if not likely, that doubt and anxiety starts to creep in- and every little 'forget moment' is taken out of context and thus making the person insecure and uneasy.
When a child forgets it's lunchbox for school- one doesn't straight away come out with a statement pointing to dementia but tells the child to be more thoughtful. So why suspect an adult of 'losing their marbles?' The more doubts about ones sanity- the more likely the 'forgetful moments' are highlighted.
Anyway, Ma (86) and I (62) laughed each time she or I 'forgot' something and decided we were both as sane and as 'with it' as the next person. She remembered my name and I knew where the keys to the car were.