Dementia is Not a Given

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I have clients of all ages – some children and some parents. One client, an 87-year-old lady with dementia, only has me in her world. Her daughter predeceased her. Could this be me? I have no children. The answer is yes … unless I prevent it! The culture in the United States limits us from deciding what we want to happen should we become incapacitated and non-functional. Some states allow assisted suicide, but you must be of sound mind, have several doctors diagnose a terminal condition, and fill out legal forms twice. This means that if you have a dementia diagnosis, you can’t have assisted suicide and are condemned to a world where life is lived minute to minute.

Family History and Dementia

I remember after Mother’s long-term care insurance ran out (a 3-year policy), we were forced to place her in a nursing home in Atlanta. I would fly in monthly for two or three days, and every time I left her, it was with a heavy heart and enormous guilt. How could this have happened to a summa cum laude graduate of American University who had lived all over the world? Why didn’t I make enough money for in-home care or at least a memory care unit?

Mother had seen her brother with dementia and begged us to help her die should it happen to her. To fulfill her wishes would have meant at least $100,000 in legal fees to defend ourselves in court. There is a good chance we would have been acquitted, but no guarantee. To this day, I’m not sure I did the right thing by letting her die naturally. Which begs the question, what about me? The gene for dementia is in the family. Do I have it? Do I want to know if I do? What scientists know is that dementia and Alzheimer’s plaque or protein can exist in your brain, and it’s very possible that you will never have symptoms.

Scientific Research

The Nun’s Study, research that began in 1986 and is still ongoing at Northwestern University, revealed that positivity was closely related to longevity and idea density, which is connected to conversation and writing. This research found that those who kept reading, writing, and staying active had a higher chance of having sufficient mental capacity in later life, despite neurological evidence that showed the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Should we fear dementia? I live with a husband diagnosed with dementia, and I can tell you from personal experience that there is no cure. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body, or Vascular … the medical community is still perplexed as to how to treat it. We do have several prevention methodologies that seem to help stave off cognitive dysfunction:

  • Live
  • Love
  • Walk, preferably with friends
  • Read
  • Go outside
  • Party
  • Look on the bright side

I am surrounded by Elders with many levels of physical and mental capacity. Anecdotally, it is very apparent to me that the more active you are, the longer you live. Bottom line: maintain a positive attitude about life and keep up the exercise.

If you or someone you know is concerned about the onset of dementia, please reach out to me at Parent Your Parents in Miami, Florida. I can provide support and guidance, help face fears, and find solutions. I share many articles, videos, and information that tackles senior issues. Whether you live in Florida or not, I am a senior advocate who points you in the right direction. Contact me, Frances Reaves, for a free consultation and elder law support for multiple senior concerns all in one place. If you prefer, you can call 786-418-3303 or email me at