In my last article, I revealed that I have Mild Cognitive Impairment. I defined the disorder, listed typical symptoms, mentioned the prognosis and discussed my own symptoms -- what I have difficulty doing and what I still can do.
In this article, I'm going to talk about how I am coping with the problems this impairment is causing and how I feel about having the disorder.
How I Am Coping With My Memory Problems
Last January, I published an article, "25 Tips for Coping With Memory Problems." It was well-received, probably because everybody has some memory problems. I think another reason it was popular is that many people with normal age-related memory changes are concerned they may be getting Alzheimer's.
The article was incredibly easy to write. First, I jotted down 50 techniques I use to cope with my own weak memory. Then I simply whittled it down to 25, although in the article I didn't mention how I'd come up with the list.
Although I use all 25 of these tips (plus many others) the five that help me the most are:
1. Make lists of things you have to do and always put them in the same place.
2. Make sticky note reminders and put them in places where you're likely to see them.
3. If a task is too complicated and is frustrating you, find someone to do it for you even if you have to pay them.
4. If you are learning anything new -- no matter how simple -- write down exactly how to do it for future reference.
5. Stick to the same daily routine as much as possible.
A humorous tip I could have put in the article would be to ask people to remind you of things and hope their memory is better than yours!
The 25-item list also includes tips related to safety, such as ideas about driving and using the stove, microwave, heaters or candles.
In addition, several tips are related to the grant writing job I had. Now that I'm retired I don't need those anymore. However, they can be helpful to anyone with a job that requires paperwork, especially if they need to save and retrieve paper or computer files.
How I Feel About Having This Diagnosis
Having this diagnosis is actually a relief for three reasons:
1. A diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment is much better than the neuropsychologist's diagnostic impression last year (" the pattern is suggestive of neurodegenerative changes that are often associated with dementia of the Alzheimer's type.")
2. As mentioned in my previous article, only about 10 - 15% of people with this diagnosis progress to Alzheimer's. Those are good odds.
3. I finally have an explanation for my issues with memory and confusion. It has a name. I'm not going crazy. There's a logical explanation for my problems.
You're going to think I'm irrational, but I really do mean what I'm about to say, namely if I could be half as contented as Ed, my Romanian life partner was, I'd rather die of Alzheimer's than cancer, for example.
Before he had Alzheimer's, Ed spent a lot of time drinking and thinking about death. After he had dementia, he didn't appear to ever think about it. I'm guessing he didn't have the mental capacity to have a concept of the future or his own death.
Sometimes people with Alzheimer's are blissfully ignorant of their circumstances, while those with terminal cancer most likely think about their imminent death very often, accompanied by great stress, emotional pain and anxiety.
Does anyone else want to share their thoughts and feelings if they have Mild Cognitive Impairment or if they have a loved one diagnosed with this condition?
Marie Marley is the award-winning author of the uplifting book, Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer's and Joy. Her website contains a wealth of information for Alzheimer's caregivers.