MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL – ALZHEIMER’S AND AGING

Ceramic figurine gazing in a mirror

We are sometimes suprised when we ask “Mirror, mirror on the wall.”

October 12, 2012 — Once upon a time in a far-off land there was a very vain queen who looked daily into a magic mirror and asked her usual question, “Mirror, mirror on the wall who is fairest of us all?”  For years the compelled and truthful mirror replied to the beautiful woman standing before it, “You are the fairest my queen.” That is until one day when the mirror noticed the aging queen, the fading luster in her once-gleaming eyes, crow’s feet stamping their mark on the outward corners when she blinked, and the tiny lines and crinkles appearing on her once flawless skin.  It was then, with brutal honesty, the candid mirror answered, “Sorry, babe! You’ve lost it.  Snow White is now the most gorgeous chick in the kingdom.”  The queen, in utter shock, did not take well to the news. Furthermore, the enraged and jealous woman would spend the entire remainder of the story doing her best to “bump off” the young and beautiful Snow White.

And so it goes with us humans as time and nature do their dastardly deeds of aging no matter how we may rant and rave, apply magic potions from the most prestigious cosmetic counters, or continually strive to retain that sparkling radiance of youth the cycle of life carries all of us from birth to the grave making constant changes to our bodies and face on a yearly basis – sometimes faster. Stepping out of the fairytale even Snow White would have aged right along with everyone else.

AGING COMES WITH EARNED WRINKLES AND GRAY HAIR

I suppose acceptance is part of aging.  I once heard a Royal, whose name is long forgotten, answer when asked if she minded not being able to do all those things she had done as a girl.  “Not at all,” she gamely answered, “I find that as I grow older I don’t want to do those things anymore.”

Furthermore, many a parent has accepted the worry and laugh lines as badges of honor rather than marks of aging.  After rearing her family a happy mother remembers the bad and sad times of parenthood right along with the good times and brags, “I’ve earned every one of these lines and wrinkles.”

I recall returning from our vacation one year and as we all helped unpack our car I noticed our neighbor talking with a strange man who had his back to us.  Tall and built like my husband I glanced up and down the block wondering where Ken had vanished.  Looking again at the stranger whose hair was very definitely turning gray I was momentarily stunned to realize that it was Ken.   His hair had turned noticeably gray when I wasn’t watching. “Look,” I whispered to our girls, “your father has gray hair.  When did that happen?”  Yet, my feeling was not one of disappointment, but of new and intense interest.  Would the gray make him a little more urbane and less mischievous?  Ultimately, it didn’t, but it was fun to think of him as looking more mature; sort of a new challenge being in love with an older man.

WRINKLES OF THE MIND

With this thing called aging what about the mind and what causes our brain to become incapacitated and crumble away with diseases of dementia often long before the body.  Of course we don’t know what causes these mind diseases, but it’s interesting that an Alzheimer’s mind often doesn’t accept its aging body.  Following our vacation and my discovery of Ken’s graying hair I asked him if he had noticed how gray he was getting.  He answered to the affirmative adding that it made him look distinguished, but that was during his middle years.

Recently, Crizaldo, Ken’s caregiver, brushed his hair back during morning cleanup, and then handed him a mirror so he could take a look at his fresh appearance.  A spark of memory must have ignited as he recognized himself. Then with a sigh of disappointment he said, “Ahh, my hair is all white.”  Again, an AD mystery: his brain telling himself that his hair had changed from gray to white.

WHY DO I LOOK SO OLD

younger woman 1930

A younger Irene

My mother Irene expressed those same feelings recognizing aging, and with that recognition, sadness during her early Alzheimer’s. She and my dad, with me and Ken, had gone out for lunch.  We sat at a table as a foursome laughing and talking as good friends rather than parents and grown children.  She was so caught up in our moments of mirth and merriment I had almost forgotten her AD.  As we left the restaurant the afternoon sun shined brightly on the window glass reflecting all of us as if it were a mural on a wall. “Oh my,” she lamented looking at the four of us in image. “I’m old.  I thought we were like the two of you – younger – but we’re not,” she concluded looking at my father. “We’re old people.”

As her memory continued to fail my mother thought of herself as an even younger girl once asking my father if there was anywhere she might go to meet young people.  “I’m new in town,” she said, “I would like to meet someone and get married.” 

 Her Alzheimer’s had no forks in the road.  Rather the disease took a direct route from an old woman to a little girl with appropriate stages of “growing down” along the way.  One morning she came out of the bathroom looking very puzzled.  “Excuse me,” she said looking straight at me.  “Why do I look so old when I’m still so young?”

THE SPIRIT SURVIVES AGING?

Perhaps it’s the body which has aged and the Alzheimer’s brain is shrinking away and dying, but leaving the unconquered spirit that is still young and questioning.  Was it Irene’s youthful spirit who wondered why she looked so old when she was so young? Could it be Ken’s spirit that smiles at me some nights as I lean to kiss him on the forehead telling him, “I love you?” Is it possible that his spirit — not subject to the aging process — and still filled with indomitable youth and vigor is telling his lips to pucker waiting for a real kiss? As a woman of faith I ask, “Why not?”


 

Alzheimer’s Vs. Normal Aging: How to Tell the Difference

Rachael Rettner, MyHealthNewsDaily Staff Writer

The most common symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficultly remembering things , particularly new information, such as an appointment you have made. While people who are aging normally may forget things as well, they will typically remember them later — in other words, you remember that you forgot.

But in some people with Alzheimer’s disease , that doesn’t happen. “You forget something and then you don’t get that information back, it doesn’t seem familiar to you even if someone reminds you,” Snyder said. READ MORE HERE: How to Tell The Difference


 

Survey Finds Caregivers Misperceive Behavior Changes as Normal Aging

From the Alzheimer’s Reading Room

“Behavioral treatments are the treatment of choice,” Mintzer said, “but unfortunately, these approaches are not always feasible or effective. When neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia like severe agitation, aggression and severe symptoms of depression appear, they can be a real challenge to a patient’s and caregiver’s quality of life, be life threatening and become a medical priority so in those cases most clinicians will use pharmacological interventions.”



But, he added, “A savvy clinician should have all available tools at his/her disposal to provide the best care available. People with dementia deserve nothing less.” READ MORE HERE Behavior Changes


 

Exercise improves not only your physical condition, but can also keep your mind sharp and help prevent Alzheimer’s.


Individuals with higher levels of daily physical activity may have a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s.


A woman whose father died of Alzheimer’s shares her preparation for her future and possibly having the disease.

Alanna Shaikh: How I’m preparing to get Alzheimer’s

Originally posted 2012-10-12 19:55:10.

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