Memory – by Oscar E V Fernando

Memory – by Oscar E V Fernando

Poverty – by Oscar E V Fernando

Memory is defined as-ability of the mind to remember-the mind’s store of remembered events-impressions-knowledge-ideas etcetera-all linked to the mind

And what is it to forget-is it to forget something-to forget about something-is it to fail or be unable to remember?

Or is it stop being aware of something-neglect or overlook something-leave behind something accidentally-to dismiss something from one’s mind

Does it boggle your mind to realize that all these are-our mind playing hide and seek with us?

Haven’t we at any one time or the other in our life not faced the aforesaid states of mind

None can say – we have not

It was so from our childhood up to our later years-but gradually it became a problem to think of as we closed in onto middle age-when it’s frequency and duration increased-for some it has become a frightening prospect to deal with-battling with specialized names like- dementia and alzheimer and amnesia names driving one crazy-unless one is aware-at least non-medically-what it means to patients-caregivers and loved ones of especially Alzheimer’s Disease-AD persons. 

Dictionary defines-

Dementia-a loss or severe lessening of normal mental ability and functioning, occurring especially in the elderly-but also it would appear among the young-medically opined as too many irons in their fires

Senile dementia-a psychological disorder caused by irreversible degeneration of the brain, usually commencing after late middle age, and characterized by loss of memory, impaired intellectual ability and judgement.

Alzheimer’s disease-(AD)-an incurable disease, usually occurring in middle age or later, in which degeneration of the brain cells results in gradual loss of memory, confusion, etcetera eventually leading to total disintegration of the personality.

Amnesia-a loss or impairment of memory, caused by physical injury, disease, drugs or emotional trauma.

AD-which concerns us the most, gets hold of a person when approaching old age in this the unstoppable journey of ageing-leading to the second childhood and eventual infancy 

We have it on medical advice, that with proper health care, timely observation and preventive measures the aged can be less of a burden to family and society with onset of AD.

Forgetfulness in old age is common to all humanity-with AD it is a sickness.

The name has its derivation from Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German doctor who in 1906, noticed changes in the brain tissue of a woman who had died of an unusual mental illness.

The rest is medical study and its jargon is safely left to the world of medicine-where even angels fear to tread

Stating broadly, AD is a frightening and debilitating illness that is characterized by-confusion, memory failure, disorientation, restlessness, amnesia, speech disturbances, inability to carry out purposeful movements, and hallucinations-as stated in Mosby’s Medical, Nursing and Allied Heath Dictionary

The symptoms of an AD patient can best be exemplified with an excerpt from the book-36-Hour Day-an invaluable book for families and caregivers of AD

Often Mary was afraid of a nameless, shapeless fear-her impaired mind could not put a name or an explanation to her fear-people came-memories came and then-then they slipped away 

“She could not tell what was real and what was not-the bathroom was not where it was yesterday-dressing became an insurmountable ordeal-Mary gradually lost the ability to make sense out of what her eyes and ears told her-she worried about her things-a chair-the China that had belonged to her mother-they said they had told her over and over-she could not remember where her things had gone-perhaps someone had stolen them-she had lost so much

Mary was glad when her family came to visit-sometimes she remembered their names-more often she did not-she never remembered that they had come last week, so she regularly scolded them for abandoning her-she was glad when they didn’t try to remind her of what she had just said or that they had come last week, or ask her if she remembered this person or that one

She liked it best when they just held her and loved her

Although the risk of progress increases with age-in most people symptoms first appear after age 60 and it is found that AD rapidly increases between the ages 65 and 85. 

It would appear that medical science is still in the quest of finding its causes-although it is now known that AD is not a part of normal aging-it is also concluded that in the absence of disease-the human brain often can function well into the tenth decade of life-says medical researchesBy taking treatment it is medically reported that although AD cannot be cured-it can be slowed down.

Is the life of an AD patient mere existence-with total custodian care-or with early detection and preventive treatment the patient’s quality of life can be sustained to make it easier for the patient and the care giver has been researched that AD is probably the only illness that can truly be described as being the opposite of birth

Brain begins shrinking as the disease progresses, and the layers of learning are stripped away in much the same order in which they were laid on from birth

At death, the brain resembles that of a newborn infant-and this implies that family members and care givers have to be mindful that up to the point of reaching this stage-the patient responds to love, touch emotion and the care givers’ sympathetic understanding-similar to the responses of a new born infant!

With the onset of age should we not be alert to keep our minds occupied to ensure there are no mental and physical atrophies that may trigger such diseases as AD

Should not the family members make discreet observations for their own sake as well as for the sake of their dear ones

As an AD patient’s life is very closely linked to the caregiver-be it a sibling- spouse-son/daughter-relative or a paid nurse the following are a must to be read-with both heart and head

Caring for an AD patient at home can be very demanding both physically and emotionally as it can make one feel lonely

Each day brings new challenges as the caregiver copes with changing levels of ability and new patterns of behavior of the patient

As such-much compassion-will power-adjustments and adaptations may be necessary in the long run-implying-caring for the patient’s general health-keeping an eye on his/her daily activities-avoiding risk of injuries- preventing infections-drug and recreation management and doing all this with much love and care

As the disease gets worse and caring at home becomes increasingly difficult, family members will face difficult decisions about long-term care-and research has found that the worst that can happen to an AD patient is to be put away from the home environment as with no love and close attention the disease could be worsened

It is increasing found that family caregivers will be hard to come by as they will not be able to cope with the attention needed, and at the same time be gainfully employed and tend to their own families-these are matters that mainly civil society will have to deal with to provide homes for the aged and other elderly care

Medical research has found out that an essential requirement for a caregiver is to first cultivate loving oneself-to have self-esteem-before being capable of loving and caring for another-and this appears in a book of instructions for AD caregivers

Does it not echo-very co-incidentally-the biblical admonishment given in the Ten Commandments to Moses by God-several millennia ago?

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

The Gospel of Matthew too records Jesus admonishing the same

It is well for caregivers and loved ones of AD patients to ponder on this!

Oscar E V Fernando

August 2021

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