It’s that time of the day when people tell their colleagues “See you tomorrow Ashley” and text that special friend messages like; “Still have plans for tonight?”. I write this sitting on my kitchen counter, legs folded like a Buddhist, one leg of my sock is almost off, nibbling on a fried chicken while taking turns between wiping my hands and typing, I’m dressed in my pyjamas and the fire alarm is blaring.
Bottom line, I’ve had a care-free-I-do-not-give-a-damn-day. The most stressful thing I’ve done must have been readjusting a dangling braid or 2 on my head earlier this morning that was until the fire alarm started blaring and I peeked out to ask my housemate “what’s up?”
“I must have triggered the fire alarm while frying chicken” she had replied waving a kitchen napkin in attempt to relieve the room of steam. I had walked to the window, peeked out of the window and watched other tenants file out wearing long faces. As an African, a fire alarm is just an annoying sound to me and nothing more… well… until I start to see smoke then I know I need to head out.
While I’m sitting in the kitchen waiting for the alarm situation to be silenced, my thoughts wander to my grand ma who I had noted in my notebook reminder to call 2 days ago. I sigh and make another note this time mentally – to call her once the alarm has been silenced.
I had the opportunity to visit and stay with my grand ma earlier this year just before travelling. I had spent a total of two weeks with her and during my stay, I visited her room every night and listened to her mumble about unrelated events and I introduced myself every single time. For the first week, she didn’t really seem to care if I was there or not and she directed only few statements at me the rest were directed to her imaginary audience but I didn’t relent in my visits. The silent visits kept going until one evening, I met her sitting up on her bed and I asked if she needed anything but she shook her head and asked me to tuck her in bed right; I obeyed. When I was done, I continued my normal introduction that usually went like this;
“Mama good evening, it’s Idara – your Etieno. Idemfo?”
She stayed silent for a while then screamed. I was so scared so was my aunt who came running in to ask what the matter was and my grand ma turned to grab my hands and drag me into her embrace all the while repeating
” Etieno mmi, Etieno mmi”
I was in complete shock at her sudden reaction until she stated that she had no idea it was ‘her Etieno’ who had been visiting her all this while. I felt my eyes water because that was when my grand ma’s condition really hit me that either my grand ma was beginning to show signs of Alzheimer or the Parkinson’s disease she’s been battling for years was now progressing and I feared that it may take her a longer time to recognize me or my voice when next we see. Before now, she recognized family members easily but had difficulties remembering her friends, conversations or events but now, she couldn’t remember me even after a whole week of constant visits. My worst fear however was that this could be my fate at 70 if I don’t start taking actions now.
This event peaked my interest to look into the possibility of Alzheimer and learn more about this disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that can include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language.
….Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease. This means that gradually, over time, more parts of the brain are damaged. As this happens, more symptoms develop. They also become more severe.
WebMD recognises 3 main phases of Alzheimer’s disease which are; Mild, Moderate and Severe. Each stage has it’s common symptoms. As I read through, I found myself recognizing traits of mild Alzheimer in me.
It’s no news to my friends that I suffer from ‘mild’ memory lapses and sometimes we laugh over the fact that I forget somethings instantly like not remembering where I kept my keys or ID card and I have to turn my room upside down searching for it or arguing with my friends that they never told me about an upcoming event only to realize that indeed they had and I had even written it down in my note book or washing a cup inside out about three times because I can’t remember washing it the first time and second time or going to buy groceries for dinner and forgetting what I wanted to prepare or turning my room light off before I step out but once I’m out, I don’t remember if I had turned it off and I have to call a flat mate to please double check or asking a person for their name for the umpteenth time even after several meetings or when my Uni room mates joked about getting me a chain wallet or an electronic purse for my birthday so I can call it every time I forget where I last kept it or when I tell a friend or family member ‘I’ll call you back’ and they know better than wait around for that call because it’s not going to happen. Not because I don’t care, but because I simply FORGOT.
I find myself tucking a note pad in my bag every time I’m about to step out and I scribble in it all the time. In the bus, in the toilet, in class, on my bed, even when having a simple conversation with a person and if my tiny note book is not available, I turn to my phone for storage. These note pads are like my brain; scattered with ideas, ridiculous thoughts, life hacks, figures, cell phone numbers, people’s names and where we met, shopping lists and a few hopeful plans.
Like I said earlier, I found my self connecting with mild Alzheimer during my research but that doesn’t mean I have Alzheimer as I am too young for such a disease. PS: Symptoms of mild Alzheimer and having any of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean Alzheimer is knocking, it could just be as a result of other medical conditions like drug abuse, depression, stress, Parkinson’s disease, unhealthy diet (malnutrition) or taking medications that do not work well together. Personally, I feel I am too young for this disease but my forgetfulness is starting to take a toll on me and everyone around. Here are some common traits I have with mild Alzheimer:
- Having less energy and drive to do things: It’s the 8th month of the year and I have completely read only about 4 books and I have 2 unfinished ones I abandoned half way not because they were boring but because I lost interest or just didn’t find the zeal. Heck, I haven’t even written a blog post in nearly 2 months and I attribute this to ‘being busy with school work’ when in reality, I’m spending time with the second symptom.
- Less interest in work and social activities and spending more time just sitting, watching TV, or sleeping: Usually, when someone asks me what’s your hobby, I say sleeping and when asked why I say I am socially lazy. It’s the truth. I have no interest in going to work or lectures or social activities. I even sleep in the cinema some times and I can’t remember the last time I watched a movie from beginning to end without sleeping. If forced to hang out with people, I have learnt to consciously drift myself away from reality. I watch almost a hundred random youtube videos every week I even go as far as watching lectures on youtube as opposed to reading sometimes.
- Loss of recent memories, like forgetting conversations and events that just happened: This is like a regular thing now. I have had conversations where I keep saying ” No, you didn’t tell me.” and the person gets exhausted at the end and has to repeat his/her self all over again. Some events I don’t remember if it was a dream, an imagination or if it had actually happened.
- Language problems, like trouble putting their thoughts into words or understanding others: Who remembers me saying “Sorry guys, it didn’t come out well” especially when explaining something. I have even been accused of hoarding knowledge *purses lips* hmmmmmmm… sorry mate, it’s not what you think, I just cannot explain it to you…
- Mood swings that involve depression or a lack of interest: Here we go again… hello mood swings, have a seat beside me. Too often this is described as me being over sensitive or hyper active. Now shut the door behind you and just LEAVE ME ALONE but please stand outside the door just in case I need a hug.
- Trouble with driving, like getting lost on familiar routes: Okay, so I don’t drive often but I get lost a lot when walking or taking the bus or taxi even if I have followed that route several times. I usually thought it was because I sucked at geography… maybe or maybe not…. Google Map to the Rescue!
Ways To Cope With the above symptoms…
First: Stay mentally active. I stopped playing chess because I felt it was mentally stressful like having to predict your opponent’s next move and thinking 2 or 4 steps ahead…
ayayayya… too much thinking… strike! Honestly, I thought candy crush kept my brain active enough… guess not. Well, time to bring back Sudoku and cross word puzzles or better still 4 pictures and a word…Now. that I like 😀
Second: Socialize Regularly. This is the reason my mother made sure I never stayed alone but lived with 2 or more room mates or flat mates. Helped in a way but I still find myself in my room most times or on-line. Time to change that by engaging in social activities more often, travelling and never saying no to a get together…So help me God.
Third; Get Organised. I’m a pro in this now.. thanks to my note pad. Keeping to-do-lists and setting a particular place for keys, wallets, IDs, etc can go a long way in reducing your level of frustration every morning.
Fourth, Sleep Well. Say no more bruh… I got this ✔
Lastly, Eat a healthy diet and include physical activity in your daily routine. Did I mention, I have cut down drastically on my chocolate and candy intake. I substituted them for fruits and I try not to have anything sugary an hour or two before my night sleep. I have noticed an improvement in my moods and I don’t wake up as tired as I used to.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from Alzheimer or experiencing any of the above symptoms or just a sad case of memory lapses, I’ll love to know how they are dealing with it and if it’s actually Alzheimer or just symptoms of stress or something else.
Do have a wonderful week worth Remembering…
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