This week, I had the pleasure of hanging out with my Aunt Millie.
Aunt Millie (in red), my mom, my two kids, and me on the day of Little Miss’s christening.
Aunt Millie is my mom’s middle sister. She’s the aunt who never married, who lived with and cared for my grandmother until the day she died. She was the fun aunt. Growing up, she was the one who got down on her knees and played with us and laughed with us. She’s my brother’s godmother at baptism and my sponsor for Confirmation. She is very near and dear to our family.
Sadly, Aunt Millie is succumbing to age. Now that she lives alone, she’s become a sort of shut-in. She screens her calls and doesn’t go out. She’s stopped taking her medication and seeing her doctors. She’s showing signs of dementia, forgetting things from minute to minute.
And she lives in a different state. With my mom and I being her closest family.
With her health deteriorating, my mom and I have decided that it is time to move her out of her house and into an assisted living facility here in New York. These last few days I have been touring these facilities with Aunt Millie, showing her the best ones within her price range. We’ve finally chosen one where she will be best cared for and we believe that she is excited to get started. She knows that she can’t handle her home anymore, she knows that she’s not in the best of health anymore. We believe she is ready to move on and part with her former way of life. And we couldn’t be happier for her.
Watching my beloved aunt go from independent working woman to the forgetful, sweet, simple soul she is now has been so devastating. My grandmother had dementia before she passed, and it seems as though Aunt Millie is following in her footsteps. And living alone where your family is over and hour away is scary. I hold my breath every time I call her, waiting to hear her pick up the phone. When she doesn’t answer I fret and worry until she calls me back. I wish she was close enough that I could just hop in the car and go to her house. But with my children dependent upon me for everything, it’s near impossible to take a day off.
Where am I going with this, you may ask. This month the From Left To Write book club is revisiting a past reading, Thrive, by Arianna Huffington. In it, she issues a challenge to her readers to slow down, unplug, get more sleep or practice yoga or meditation. Kim, our fearless leader and head book nerd at FLTW is encouraging us to take one of those suggestions and attempt a seven day challenge.
Having already given up Facebook for Lent, I have decided that my challenge will be to take better care of my brain and my memories. Alzheimers.org.uk suggests that dementia may be hereditary, so I want to start taking some steps to keep my brain healthy so that maybe I won’t forget who my children are, or where I am, or when the last time was that I ate when I’m in my 70’s. Maybe I won’t become like Aunt Millie, alone and maybe afraid because she can’t remember where she is or how she got there.
The Mayo Clinic states that although there is no sure-fire way to prevent dementia, there are some things you can do to help.
- Keep your mind active.Mentally stimulating activities, such as puzzles and word games, and memory training may delay the onset of dementia and help decrease its effects.
- Be physically and socially active. Physical activity and social interaction may delay the onset of dementia and reduce its symptoms.
- Quit smoking. Some studies have shown smoking in middle age and older may increase your risk of dementia and blood vessel (vascular) conditions. Quitting smoking may reduce your risk.
- Lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure may lead to a higher risk of some types of dementia. More research is needed to determine whether treating high blood pressure may reduce the risk of dementia.
Pursue education. People who have spent more time in formal education appear to have a lower incidence of mental decline, even when they have brain abnormalities.
Researchers believe that education may help your brain develop a strong nerve cell network that compensates for nerve cell damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Eating a healthy diet is important for many reasons, but a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in certain fish and nuts, may promote overall health and lower your risk of developing dementia.
So, here I go. Wish me luck. I’ll let you know how I do in about 40 years. And I challenge you to take care of your brain, preserve your memories, and live a long, healthy, and happy life.
In the meantime, I can’t wait to get Aunt Mille into her new place to my family and I can enjoy her company again and maybe, with her finally getting medical care, she’ll come back and we’ll get a glimpse of that wonderful independent woman again.
This is an original ROSCMM post. This post was inspired by Thrive by Arianna Huffington who challenges women unplug and sleep more to create a balanced life. Join From Left to Write on March 19th as we discuss Thrive. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.
Copyright 2015 Mastermind Mommy