Sunday, September 2, 2018

DON’T TELL ME….I FORGOT

by Chris Goff

Take this blog…I totally forgot I was due to post until a notice popped up on my screen. Thank heavens for small reminders. More and more I noticed I’ve been relying on “notes to self” and to-do lists. So much so, I started worrying that maybe I was suffering some sort of dementia. 

What did I do?

First course of action was asking my doctor.

“Are you struggling with doing normal, technological things?” she asked.

“Like what?”

“Like using your phone, or your computer?

“No more than usual,” I replied. The constant advancements in technology make me cranky sometimes. I just get comfortable with a new software and they go and change it up. Hand me my flip phone and leave me alone.

My doctor smiled. “Go home, Chris. What you have is called aging.”

I’ll admit it, I’m getting older.

When I was young I had a terrific memory. My father took me to see the musical Carousel at age seven and was amazed when I could sing all of the songs, word-for-word, on the way home from the theater. Yes, I’m that girl! The one who can remember every word spoken in the heat of an argument and will use it against you for the next decade. Except now. Now I find myself struggling to remember what I’m trying say in the moment, so I found it hard to simply accept her diagnosis.

Back home I immediately looked up “memory and aging” on the internet and discovered she had this one.

The signs you may be in trouble include: declining memory, change in behavior, wandering, impaired reasoning and motor dysfunctions—all at the extreme. Here are the normal signs of aging: 

1. Occasionally forgetting where you left things you use regularly, such as glasses or keys. 
How many of us haven’t done this? After searching for my glasses for ten minutes, I once found them planted firmly on my nose.

2. Forgetting names of acquaintances or blocking one memory with a similar one, such as calling a grandson by your son’s name.
Who hasn’t forgotten a name? Once in conversation with close friend, I couldn’t pull the name of a famous actor. “You know, the guy who…the cute one.” Then, at 2:30 a.m., I sat bolt upright in bed, dragging my husband out of a perfectly sound sleep, and blurted out, “I know who it is.” Of course I called my friend. She didn’t share my enthusiasm, and didn’t appreciate the 4:30 a.m. wakeup call.

3. Occasional forgetfulness. Forgetting an appointment or walking into a room and forgetting why you entered.
I’m convinced this is something you catch, and I caught it from my husband.

4. Becoming easily distracted or having trouble remembering what you’ve just read, or the details of a conversation.
Yes. What were we talking about?

5. Not quite being able to retrieve information you have “on the tip of your tongue.”
Give me a minute.

I will not go quietly into the night. (Can you name the movie reference?)

According to the Mayo Clinic staff, if you can’t find your keys, forget your grocery list or can’t remember the name of the personal trainer you like at the gym, you’re not alone. We all forget things occasionally. It’s not really serious, but it’s also nothing to take too lightly. While there are no guarantees when it comes to preventing memory loss or dementia, there are certain activities that might help.

1. Stay mentally active
Just as physical activity helps keep your body in shape, mentally stimulating activities help exercise the brain. Researching and writing a thriller novel qualifies.

2. Socialize regularly
Social interaction helps ward off depression and stress, both of which can contribute to memory loss. Get together with loved ones and friends.

3. Get organized
Jot down tasks, appointments and other evens. Keep to-do lists current, and check off items you've completed. Limit distractions and don't do too many things at once.

4. Sleep well
Sleep plays an important role in helping memories consolidated, so they can be recalled down the road? Make getting enough sleep—seven to nine hours a day—a priority.

5. Eat a healthy diet
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat protein sources are as good for your brain as your body. 

What you drink counts, too. Too much alcohol can lead to confusion and memory loss. Mystery writers tend to drink. Maybe we come by our memory issues honestly?

6. Include physical activity in your daily routine
Increasing blood flow to your brain can’t hurt.

7. Manage chronic conditions
The better you take care of yourself, the better your memory is likely to be. Certain health issues and medications can affect memory.

Evaluating the BIG picture.

I did consider switching up my meds, replacing my pain meds with marijuana (I do live in Colorado). But then I read that a major side effect of using marijuana is memory loss and I can little afford to encourage the symptoms. The jury is out on this. Meanwhile, I’m eating better and exercising regularly. I DO need to lose a little more weight AND I definitely need to work on my sleep habits. I regularly average 5 or 6 hours a night of sleep—two to three hours short of what’s recommended.

My pledge. Project Memory.

Just as soon as I get home from Bouchercon, I’m going to buckle down—eat better, exercise more, focus on the task at hand—no more multitasking—and go to bed earlier. Give me a month or two, then I’ll check-in and let you know if I think my new habits are making a difference. If I forget, remind me!

So, is anybody else suffering age-related memory issues? Any of you have things you want to work on?

5 comments:

  1. Yes! I'm the queen of walking into a room, then having to walk out to remind myself what I was looking for. Of course, I also do this on the internet. I'll be writing, realize I need to look up something, twenty minutes later, after surfing, Facebooking, whatever, I go back to work, only to realize I never did look up that needed item, then back down the rabbit hole I go.

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  2. I had to smile as I read your great post, Chris...of course we "suffer" from so many of those memory issues you mention. It reminds me of that old line, "At this age, I talk a lot about the 'Hereafter.' You know, I walk into a room and ask myself, "what am I here after'?" As for keeping one's memory and thinking process as active as possible -- yes, doing research and writing thrillers is terrific...all of that forces me to read articles, search the internet, outline chapters and make lists. Thanks for all of your great reminders!

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  3. What was the question? Oh, no, I forgot!!!! LOL!

    Forgetting things and an inability to keep an entire book in my head became a serious problem for me. But in 2011 I married John and moved to Maine. Since then, I sleep about 8 hours a night, sometimes 9 (I used to get by on 4 or less hours.) I quit smoking (that was a tough one). I eat regularly and well (being married again, and sharing meals has made this a no-brainer). And I have family around me again (social connections that matter). I'm lucky. My forgetfulness quotient is minimal, and I think quickly and fairly easily. It's fun having a brain again, even if it is aging!

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  4. I'll try all the helpful hints, especially GET ORGANIZED! Working on redoing the cloets so that's a priority. Thanks for the post!

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