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Visiting my Grandma in the nursing home was always bound with the courtesies of first-time introductions. Every weekend, my mom…

By Karen Moxley , in The Perfect Wrinkle: A commentary on society's fear of aging , on January 27, 2009 Tags: , ,

Visiting my Grandma in the nursing home was always bound with the courtesies of first-time introductions. Every weekend, my mom would drive my sister and I to the nursing home, take us by the hand, and bravely walk us into Grandma’s florally-decorated nursing home room. Every weekend, my mom would introduce herself for the umpteenth time to the tall, elegant woman who raised her, but did not remember her.

“Hi Mom. I’m your daughter Gloria,” she would say, and the formalities of introductions would continue to my sister and I. We would shake Grandma’s thinning hand, and kiss her cool cheek as she fussed, wide-eyed and surprised over what beautiful little girls we were.  But sadly, no glimpses of recognition ever crossed my Grandmother’s face. 

Nearly half a million Canadians are affected by various forms of dementia and Alzheimer’s in Canada today.

I am always interested in the latest studies and research being done surrounding this degenerative brain disease. I am constantly forwarding my Mom links to articles that boast remedies proven to slow the onset of Alzheimer’s.

While I’m not usually one to endorse anti-aging techniques, when it comes to cognitive health, I am one hundred percent supportive. I would have never imagined suggesting that mom should “drink moderately”“ingest 150 mgs of caffeine daily”, and even “smoke cannabis”, but studies show these activities may help to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. Some more  common, and drug-free, anti-Alzheimer options include “drinking apple juice”“playing chess”, and  “singing often”

A recent research article states “Alzheimer’s is not just for the aged.” Research is showing that 71 000 people suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s in Canada today are under the age of 65. Even more frightening, nearly 50 000 of those are younger than 59.

I don’t think I’ll be forwarding this information to my mom.

My mom is 53-years-old. Suddenly, the research is hitting too close to home. 

Some people will go happily into their eighties and nineties with all their wits about them. But for many, Dementia and Alzheimer’s will rob good people of decades worth of memories. First kisses, first jobs, first loves…all forgotten. 

The Alzheimer’s Society of Canada is predicting that by 2040, between 1 and 1.3 million Canadians will have Alzheimer’s. The disease threatens to swamp our healthcare system in the decades ahead. As the boomers slowly forget to unplug their kettles, water their plants, and walk their dogs, it is estimated that Alzheimer’s will cost the Canadian healthcare system in excess of $5.5 billion a year.

Perhaps if society were as concerned with mental health, and the maintenance of healthy bodies and minds as they are with physical beauty, and the maintenance of wrinkle-free skin, firm butts and perky breasts, this $5.5 billion yearly expense might be significantly reduced. Alzheimer’s is a hereditary disease, but awareness, prevention and research might begin to reverse its far-reaching effects. 

I read a sad, but somehow uplifting story today that tells of an 80-year-old man who lived in a nursing home and was in the late stages of Alzheimer’s. After 40-plus years of marriage, he believed he was still courting his wife.  Everyday he would ask her to marry him, and everyday, she would say ‘yes.’  Alzheimer’s robs its victims of their memories, but does not strip them of the intrinsic human desire to love, and be loved. 

We will all age, and likely grow old and forgetful. But, if some day we are no longer able to be a product of our own memories, we will need our loved ones to remind us of who we are, and the how the memories of our lives have shaped us.