Saturday, 14 December 2013

Present - and Correct?

The recent decision by the G8 ministers to target dementia in the same way as they did  global HIV, with the aim of finding a cure or at least a 'stopper' by 2025, is good news. Having seen my own Mother slip away in her late 70's and seeing my mother-in-law similarly disabled now, whilst being surrounded by friends and other family members struggling with their own parents in the same situation, I have seen the future. And it scares the hell out of me! 
As a very personal reflection, and in no way from an informed, activist or political viewpoint, I started this blog on Thursday morning on the 'plane to Rome for a short break, a birthday treat courtesy of my daughter and my wife. And I am so ready for a break.  It's a long slog though from the August Bank Holiday to the Christmas Holidays - some 4 months, almost. And I'm weary. Tired, lethargic, a 'bit low' generally and trying to push through to Xmas.

But what has really brought that home to me in these last few weeks, is the number of what I would categorise as 'silly mistakes' that I have been making; nothing that has caused any impact on others - because I 'caught' them in time - but certainly not how I like to operate, either personally or professionally. And I guess what has emerged for me is the realisation (scrub that - confirmation!) that I have a preferred 'modus operandi', a comfort model of being present and effective, but the standards for which I feel I have fallen below recently. And I am really uncomfortable - and a little nervous - about that.

Recent examples include missing appointments, booking meetings on wrong dates, having to correct a webinar booking THREE times before I scheduled it correctly and even this week, as Mandy and I set off for our flight to Rome, I left my bum bag (with boarding card and passport) in the car in the long-stay car park at Gatwick Airport, and then left my Kindle (ironically, on which I am writing this blog) on the 'plane when we disembarked at the other end at Fiumicino Airport! Again, no-one died and I was able to recover both - and the other situations - quickly, with no harm done.

But here's the thing. I hate that I have done those things. It makes me feel at best, incompetent and at worst, not in control of my own thoughts and actions - and as we fly back from Rome today, with my 58th birthday to look forward to tomorrow, it scares me for the future. 
Having watched and lived through the gradual dying of the light of older relations and friends, I am more and more aware that modern medicine and health care has prolonged our physical longevity, but our poor old brains have not developed quickly enough to cope and are failing us before our bodies do. We are outliving our brains! And worryingly,

there are going to be even more of us in that situation come 2025!

Of course, my recent little mistakes are just symptoms of me being a bit tired and stressed and needing a break, nothing more. But it does make me wonder what it's going to be like when I get older. If dementia or Alzheimer's does happen, will I be aware of 'losing the plot'? Or will it be a more insidious, creeping withdrawal of mental faculties, a gradual slipping away, 'blessed' by an unaware ignorance of the fact, that others will have to deal with on my behalf?
Maybe - hopefully - none of the above.

For now, I am responsible for, and in charge of, my mental well-being and longevity. I try to keep my brain as active and 'fit' as possible. I read a lot, I do Su Doku puzzles every day, I work, I interact with others in person and online, I tweet, I blog - and I will continue to do so for as long as I possibly can. And, as we fly back to the UK today, Saturday, after a fantastic couple of days exploring Rome, I am resolved to take more holidays and travel more. That should do it for now.
So, come 2025, when I turn 70, maybe those clever scientists and doctors, who are about to get all those G8 research funds and collaboration opportunities, will have a little pill I can take if and when my brain is no longer able to keep up with my body.

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