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Old 07-27-2015, 10:53 AM
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aka Dementia.
Some people might choose not to take part in this thread, although I hope some people will. I think any person over 60 (or even less) does not want to consider the 800-pound gorilla in the room- the possibility of dementia in older age. All these retirement discussions about places to go (which I really enjoy) obviously are thinking of healthy and active retirement. The mentions of CCRCs have elicited a few terrible stories of people drooping and drooling in wheelchairs at even well-regarded assisted livings. There are some poor comments about people going out on an ice floe or something before going to such a place (and, I assume, being in such condition).

I personally have worked with end-stage dementia people. They aren't living an active nice retirement life, to put it mildly, and they often can do little else but droop in a wheelchair. It's a terrible thing and I know that those posters who have seen this in older relatives have seen plenty. For myself, I do think I would kill myself if I had a diagnosis of early dementia (while I'm still able to take action).

But it troubles me when people heh-heh about it, like "having a senior moment" or casual mentions of ice floes. Now, I do believe that I'm not the only person who would kill myself (or ask to be killed by a spouse, if I had one) should that diagnosis occur. I do believe the ice floe comments would turn real for some people and they'd find a way out before ending up in that wheelchair.

I am at low risk for dementia, given the elders around me. If cancer doesn't get you (everyone I am related to has had or died of cancer, all in the Philadelphia area) then you live a long live with out cognitive decline. My father was 87 when cancer got him suddenly and was as mentally sharp as ever. My mother was 77 when 45 years of chain-smoking got her, and she was not demented, although she was always pretty crazy, as was her mother at 92. My mother's sister, my aunt (and only person I consider family) is almost 90, recovered from colon cancer 20 years ago, and very sharp. So I don't overly worry about it for myself, but recognize the necessity of living somewhere else for those who have cognitive decline. Also, living with a person who is declining is a slow-motion nightmare for spouses or adult children of the decliner. I don't have any children (by choice) or spouse (just happened that way…) and therefore I discuss CCRCs for myself.

George H.W. Bush jumped out of an airplane, for I think his 80th birthday. He was quoted as saying, "I'm not going to drool in the corner just because I'm 80," and that really troubled me. Does he think that people choose to have dementia and end up in a pitiable state? Of note, now that he's in his 90s with Parkinson's, he might well find himself in that wheelchair, although his family certainly has the means to keep him at home.

Nancy Reagan apparently got a lot of credit for "keeping Ronnie at home" with dementia. Again, having the means to essentially create a nursing home in the home. The last photo of him was at one of his late birthday parties, and even in the photo, I could see the stunned and frightened look of dementia. I feel for anyone who felt guilty that Nancy kept her spouse at home when that person feels unable. It becomes impossible.

I'm not sure what discussion I hope to elicit. Maybe just the acknowledgement of people who are nearing or in retirement age that there is a potential dark cloud over plans and actions, and that it genuinely is fearful. I can't be the only one. Can I?
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Old 07-27-2015, 11:18 AM
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I am 63 and not fearful of dementia. I do have problems that are managed with meds at this point. I do try to plan ahead for all contingencies but don't worry more than that. Guess I am more of a doer than a worrier by nature, so once I set things in place I am content to let it be.

Is this what you were asking? My Mom has severe dementia, her sister died of Alzheimers. My Dad had that awful Parkinson's Disease with Lewi Body Dementia. That was the worst of it I could imagine.
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Old 07-27-2015, 11:25 AM
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Thank you for posting. I'm not sure what I was asking, but your answer works well. I am sorry for your family's tragedies and of course it's wise for all of us to allow room for all contingencies, if we can.
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Old 07-27-2015, 11:38 AM
Location: NC Piedmont
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I think a lot of senior moment jokes are making light of what we hope are just minor incidents that are not indicative of a systemic problem. I have had enough that I did look into it with my doctor and it doesn't seem to be anything more than greater awareness and concern; I have been somewhat scatter brained and forgetful all my life. I strongly agree that statements that denigrate others are unkind even if meant to be taken only in jest. But I would cut people slack for making light of their own slip ups.
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Old 07-27-2015, 12:21 PM
Location: East of Seattle since 1992, originally from SF Bay Area
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Like getting killed in an earthquake, or being run over by a bus, there's nothing you can do about it so why worry? At age 65 people should be prepared, having all of their wishes known and in writing, but other than that, fate will determone how and when they go. I had a grandfather make it to 93, but his wife died at 55. I have an aunt who just turned 100, and she drove her car until age 96. Her husband died at 70. My mother in law died a year ago at age 95 and had a perfectly sound mind until the last few months, her husband only made 75 but his mind was fine until the end. I'm still working at 63 and having a fairly technical managerial job that I love. Some people say that "exercising" your brain helps ward off dementia,
I hope that's true.
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Old 07-27-2015, 12:26 PM
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brightdoglover, I am like you. Maybe it comes from extensive years of being on our own and having to deal with problems by ourselves. Maybe it is part of our religious/cultural makeup and its history. We feel the need to be prepared... just in case.

I have a whole list of things I am worried about, declining cognitive functions is but one of them. It is one of the things I discussed with my CFP because I didn't want my life's savings to be easily taken from me if I start suffering from dementia and I need someone who will notice that I need help. I am watching how it is affecting my husband's sister. I am watching the mental decline of my husband. He has me to watch out for him, but I will have no one. That is one of the reasons that I also am looking into moving to a CCRC in the future.

For me, suicide is not an option. I simply don't have the guts to do it.
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Old 07-27-2015, 12:40 PM
Location: Near a river
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Originally Posted by brightdoglover View Post
Nancy Reagan apparently got a lot of credit for "keeping Ronnie at home" with dementia. Again, having the means to essentially create a nursing home in the home.
Well, she wasn't really keeping him "at home with her." She probably had him set up in style with round-the-clock caregivers in some separate wing of her mansion, and just popped in to chat several times a day. That's a far cry from an ordinary retiree keeping a relative with dementia in his or her home, even with a daily visit from a nurse.

I've read enough in the Caregiving forum, and have experienced enough with 5 old-old elders, to know a few of the issues. Safety (for the patient and for those around her) is the big one. They wander away, can nearly set the house on fire accidentally, harm themselves, and sometimes physically attack or at least get combative. A caregiver would be extraordinary to put up with one of the more difficult cases; these people do not always sit idly in a chair staring out the window.

Those who have a spouse or other family may not worry so much as they age as might someone who lives alone and has little or no family. Single folks are wise to know their options sooner than later. Hopefully a spouse or family members would take over for their loved one, but planning is still a good idea.
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Old 07-27-2015, 12:41 PM
Location: Los Angeles area
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I am 71 and I think it would be rare at my age not to think, every once in a while, about the horror of mental decline of various types. And that implies that we think about the horror of it happening to us. There are no guarantees in life, although there are risk factors. For example, a history of smoking is a risk factor for Alzheimers, although not everyone who smokes gets it, and lots of people who never smoked do get it. I smoked for ten years - age 18 to 28 - which means I quit 43 years ago. Therefore I don't worry much about being a former smoker.

They say being well educated is a protective risk factor - again not a guarantee because lots of well educated people do suffer from dementia/Alzheimers/etc. They also say that keeping the mind active is a protective risk factor, and therein lies my own hope. I enjoy keeping my mind active, so it's not a "chore" I have to force myself to do. I have always enjoyed reading and I continue to read on a wide variety of subjects. Most recently I read a new book about the partition of India in 1947.

My involvement with chess is certainly something which challenges the mind. (And no, I am not a chess Master by a long shot). I conduct lunch time chess clubs at two elementary schools and two middle schools as a volunteer, and during the summer I teach chess classes at an enrichment summer school for pay.

I am carefully monitoring myself for any mental slowing down - that requires a lot of objectivity but objectivity is something I've always valued and cultivated - and knock on wood I have not yet seen any signs of mental slowing down.

One scary thing is that (having no children) I will be on my own if dementia ever sets in.
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Old 07-27-2015, 12:51 PM
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One reason I'm interested in a CCRC in Vermont is Vermont's right-to-die laws, although by the time I might face the issue, I think Massachusetts will have a similar law. However, the way I read the laws in Oregon and other states that have passed it, dementia (certainly early dementia) wouldn't qualify for physician-assisted suicide (not having a 6-month terminal diagnosis).

You could always stop eating/drinking and tell your HCP (assuming you have one) that you do NOT want to be committed to the mental health system for your "failure to thrive."

I had a younger friend, like a kid brother person, who promised he wouldn't let me languish in misery. Unfortunately, he shot like a supernova across the sky and died at age 28 from drinking, drugging and diabetes.

I just got a robo-phone call directed at "all senior citizens." I'm 62. According to my town, I turned senior at age 60 for purposed of using the town dump/recycling station. There are some benefits!
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Old 07-27-2015, 01:40 PM
Location: Sierra Nevada Land, CA
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They saying goes: Forgetting where you left you car keys is not a sign of dementia. Forgetting what the car keys are for is a sign of dementia.
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