Twenty years ago I was diagnosed with Essential Tremor. Last year I agreed to donate my brain to the University of Texas Southwestern’s research into the shared symptoms of Essential Tremor, Parkinson's, and dementia.
I paid no attention to dementia symptoms until I began to track some disturbing episodes on my day-to-day life.
After working as a bi-weekly columnist for the North County Times, followed by several years of posting my The Riehl World blog in the Oside News and OB Rag, digital newspapers, I discovered I had lost my ability to find words to put together.
Thanks to voice recognition technology, which I am using at the moment, I have been able to occasionally write pieces like this one.
Here are the signs in my daily life that led me to schedule an appointment for a dementia test with my doctor.
I understand that forgetting little things, like where I placed my glass of water or my eyeglasses, is common among people of my age. But it became troubling to learn from Karen that when I said or did something which had been completely erased from my mind, it became troubling.
One morning, while brushing my teeth, I decided to go to the next room to get my bottle of water. When I returned to the bathroom, I discovered the TV remote in my hand.
An hour later I was folding clothes taken from the dryer to put into the drawers in the bedroom. After matching socks to put together in a drawer, I was disturbed that I had two undershorts that did not match, I checked the dryer to see if their matches had been left behind, before realizing I only wear one pair at a time.
In the middle of a conversation, I often have to stop, searching for the right word. But more worrisome have been the times I’ve had to ask Karen, “Where are we going?” while we were on the way to the store, as planned.
One morning, again while I was in the bathroom. I looked up to see beneath the mirror a tube of Sensodyne. I stared at it, struggling to remember what it was for. Having used a tube of prescription medicine to treat my facial dermatitis, I wondered if I should smear the toothpaste on my face, before spotting my toothbrush..
One morning, when I got into the car to drive to the store. I stepped on the brake and attempted to shift gears. When the engine did not start, I worried that the battery was dead. For a moment I did not realize I needed to simply step on the brake and push the ignition button.
After returning from the store with two boxes of cereal, I put them on a chair, then checked the kitchen to see if they were there. When I didn’t find them there, I went out to search the car. When I couldn’t find them there, I returned to the house to tell Karen I will need to return to the store, where I suspected I’d left them. Then I found them, just where I had left them in the chair.
These were the episodes that caused me to call the doctor to schedule a test for dementia.
He told me, to my relief, that I had moderate cognitive impairment. But I also learned there was nothing to stop me on this road to dementia. I can stave it off for a while with plenty of daily exercise of both body ad mind, as well as a full social life. I’ve taken up Wordle and other word games. And we are very fortunate to live here in the Chateau Lake San Marcos, where our social life is so full.
I plan to continue with this blog for as long as I am able to. I know I’m not alone in this adventure.