In the previous blog I spoke of fear, and the impact the ‘fear effect’ can have on us, both in mind, and throughout our body.
Your greatest fear:
Recently I asked on a number of 50+ women’s forums; ‘What is your greatest fear in growing old?’ The two highest responses were ‘finance’ and ‘mental health’, namely Alzheimer’s disease. How many of us fear this fate, slowly losing our faculties and the memories we hold so dear.
How do I know?
After that response, I spoke to a couple of colleagues about this concern, as well as doing some research about what we can do to check whether we are in early onset of Alzheimer’s, or just forgetting things due to worry and stress! The Mayo clinic has this very comprehensive check list of what can be done. Some of us worry that because our parents had Alzheimer’s we are more likely to be diagnosed too. The stats say that if you have a parent with early on-set (before the age of 60), then you are more likely to inherit the genes for this disease. If, however the parent was diagnosed with late onset (over the age of 60) then the possibilities are much less.
However the subject of this blog is not so much about diagnosing the disease, rather I want to talk about how we can stop this worry from taking hold of our minds. Stressing and worrying that every time we forget our keys, or a password is a sign that we are beginning to experience dementia or Alzheimer’s.
What will happen?
I’ve had conversations with people who worry constantly about what will happen to them if they are diagnosed with this disease. Sometimes so paralyzed that they become stuck in the cycle of ‘what if’. Living in constant fear that their world will come crashing down. And, it often isn’t one thing, but many, all negative and all about what could happen in the future! Not living in the present, rather in this terrible future that they have imagined. Stuck in this place that they can’t escape, does this resonate with you?
Not willing to take a risk because of what ‘might’ happen. Not willing to try something different, because of fear and unable to think of a bigger future. Living with fear stops us from living in the present. We alone have the ability to control our thoughts and look at what we can do to ‘build an Alzheimer’s-resistant brain’
What can you do?
One of the things I believe we need to do when fear arises, is to turn it around and look at what is it that is driving it. Think about why, why is this coming forward? And, then look at what we can do to negate it. So for example for those fearing Alzheimer’s or Dementia – what do these diseases actually look like? Have you really examined ‘how’ the patients feel? Have you ever volunteered with a residential home where you can meet patients and their families? Yes, it is difficult however it will give you some understanding of the disease.
A friend of mine who has a parent that was diagnosed with Alzheimers found find the resources she needed, particularly during the time she was far away, was really difficult. So she’s created a business and platform that supports daughters with parents diagnosed with dementia called Befriended Heart, Finding Joy in Dementia, she has a plethora of free resources which you can find here Another important piece is to ensure that you have a ‘living will’, a document that tells your loved ones and medical team your wishes regarding your health, whether you want to be resuscitated, kept on life support etc… Contact your lawyer or solicitor and ensure at least one person knows where this document resides!
In my previous life, I visited a couple of the residential homes, to try and understand what it was we were supporting and why. At first it was frightening, no one had told me much about the disease, and somehow my hand was clasped by this lady who didn’t want to let go. I didn’t understand that she had taken a likening to me, and tried to take my hand back, while she held on, she wanted me to walk with her. Initially I was afraid of her. It was the first time I had become immersed and been touched, literally, by the very problem that my organization was supporting. After consulting with one of the senior nurses, we went for a walk, she chatted away, she was happy. After walking the square a number of times, I had to promise I would come back. I did, she didn’t recognize me and this time didn’t take my hand or want to walk, and for me it was a lesson in understanding. She didn’t remember me, she was happy. I had worried about keeping my promise, however she was okay.
Yes, there are those who have this disease are violent, however many are not, and seem quite happy in their dementia. I also suggest reading more about it and still recommend a book I loved – Still Alice by Lisa Genova, a neuroscientist who is also a fiction writer. She did a TED talk that you can see here about what we can do to keep our brains healthy.
So health isn’t just physical, as we age we need to be more aware of our mental and emotional health. When we live in fear of something or someone, it wears us down. The stress of ‘what if’s’ affect both mind and body. So if you are afraid of dementia or Alzheimer’s talk to someone, a friend, a therapist or your family doctor, living in fear is a terrible thing and such a waste at this time of life. Help yourself, and live the life you were meant to…. And if you’re looking for a coach, don’t forget about us!