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It can be tough to remember stuff

By Staff | Oct 22, 2017

You know, I think I had this really great idea for a column this week, but now I can’t remember what it was. Trust me on this, it was going to be terrific. If I could only remember what the topic was going to be.

But being forgetful is what happens when you get old and can’t remember stuff. Like going into a room and wondering why you went in there. Or where you left your keys, phone or glasses.

Like they say, it’s tough to get old, but it sure beats the alternative.

While getting more forgetful is often a sign of old age (I prefer the term mature adults), those suffering from forms of dementia struggle with more than just a little forgetfulness. They have a hard time remembering how to do things just to get through a daily routine.

Dementia is not a disease itself. It is a term that covers several types of brain diseases and issues, the most notable being Alzheimer’s.

I learned that at a class last week at the Blue Earth Senior Citizens Center. It was titled “Dementia Friends” and was conducted by two staff members of Interfaith Caregivers of Faribault County.

Dementia Friends is a national organization that helps train just regular folks how to deal with relatives, friends or just acquaintances who are living with some form of dementia.

That covers a lot of us. In fact, I would bet we all know someone who is dealing with some form of dementia.

A lot of us Baby Boomers are having to help our parents who have Alzheimers or some other form of dementia. While there were only 20 or so folks at the Dementia Friends class last week, I am sure there are plenty more who would have benefited from it.

There were five main points that we learned. Maybe you already know them, maybe not. Here they are:

1. Dementia is not a normal part of aging. Not everyone who grows old will develop dementia.

2. Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain. The most common is Alzheimer’s.

3. Dementia is not just about having memory problems. It can affect thinking, communication and doing everyday tasks.

4. It is possible to have a good quality of life with dementia.

5. There is more to the person than the dementia. People with dementia are a valuable part of the community.

There are other things I have learned along the way of my seeing someone struggle with dementia. Treat them with respect and not as a child. Be patient and let them try and tell you what they are wanting to say. It may take a while for them to get it out. Don’t be frustrated if they tell you the same thing many times, or ask the same question many times. Or don’t remember that you were just there yesterday, for instance. They will struggle to know what day it is, time it is, even what they had for lunch an hour earlier. These things don’t really matter anyway.

They are frustrated because they can’t get the words out. They know what they want to say, the words are in their brain somewhere, but they can’t always say them. Or say them correctly. But if they tell you something that you know is wrong or incorrect, let it be. Try not to criticize or correct them.

It can be sad to see someone struggle to deal with this thing called dementia, especially when you knew them when they were one of the sharpest people you ever knew. I know this first hand. My mother, Natalie, was very smart, ran two different large companies in the Twin Cities. But now, she has dementia and struggles to do or say what she wants to, and has a hard time remembering how to do many daily activities.

She is not alone. There are so many others in this same situation with these same issues. And so many of us who try to be as supportive as we can be.

Thanks go out to Interfaith Caregivers, for putting on a seminar about dementia. They are a group that is doing so much to support the senior citizens of Faribault County.

And for what they do for folks who take care of our senior citizens. The list of what Interfaith does is long and involved. Dan Woodring and the staff and the many volunteers deserve a lot of credit. The citizens of Faribault County, young and old, are lucky to have such an organization in our community.

Now that I have rambled on and on about dementia, it is time to get back to the task at hand. Remembering what I was going to write about in this week’s column.

I know it was going to be really meaningful. I wonder what it was.

Oh well, it will come to me eventually, I’m sure.