People with dementia speak out

Rejection―real or imagined—is like a late November dampness seeping down the muscles of my back, spreading to my nerves, then settling down into the hard bone of my spine. I long to rid myself of this uncomfortable feeling by running away or hurling my aching body into a deep sea of swirling water. Ultimately, though, I feel better when I … Read More

If poor sleep leads to Alzheimer’s, I may be screwed

True confession time: 2015 has not been a stellar year for me in terms of anxiety, more specifically, my angst around Alzheimer’s. My once mild, self-involved preoccupation with developing the disease ramped up to high gear this winter after both my parents were diagnosed with dementia. I’m not actually worried about inheriting the disease—the genetic link has not been proven … Read More

Driving with dementia: Not an easy ride

I suffer from nervous passenger syndrome. Put me beside an inexperienced, unconfident or distracted driver and my body goes from relaxed to gripping-the-dashboard rigidity in a heartbeat. This January, my passenger tension escalated into low-level terror when I was helping downsize a friend’s 85-year-old mother. Given that Emily lives in a small Ontario town with little to no public transportation, … Read More

The breadth and depth of loneliness

I was seemingly born socially awkward, inward-turning and easily hurt. So, at the age of eight, I was more than delighted when a new girl in our neighbourhood latched on to me. Despite my social liabilities and her social prowess, Dawn was unflinchingly loyal to me, even as other girls circled around her—the athletic ones, the daughters of doctors and … Read More

Aging alert! If you don’t use it, you will lose it

Years ago, I had such significant and intractable neck pain that I left work for a time, thinking a break from the posture-wrecking computer would alleviate my problem. In fact, in a matter of weeks, my pain went from extremely annoying to unbearable. Still, I persisted with my strategy of avoiding triggers, deciding to eliminate all activities that aggravated my … Read More

On death, decline and elder orphans

Twelve years ago, soon after my younger brother unexpectedly died, my father pressed me about my future burial plans. I felt clammy and tight and above all irritated: not even 40 then, I was too young to think about the details of my death. I refused to answer him and pushed the thoughts and uncomfortable feelings aside. These days, I’m … Read More

Beyond coffee and red wine

Grace had always been what you might call a traditional woman in a traditional sort of marriage. So the day she stood in the living room, a carving knife raised in her hand, yelling obscenities at her husband of 50 years, her family knew something was terribly wrong. And what was wrong was dementia. Grace was my best friend’s mother, … Read More

Jack fell down …

For my 80-something neighbours, 2015 year crashed in with the force of a tidal wave, uprooting and displacing them from their home of 40 years, pushing them into a forced separation. Although several factors led to this enormous (to them) change, you might say it began in September when Fred stood on a chair to change a light bulb. No big … Read More