Living with my inevitable dementia

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Living with my inevitable dementia

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I’ve never been more dumbfounded. I parked my car in the parking lot and forgot my spot. It was at a building I frequently visit, and I couldn’t even remember the right floor.

After searching for my car on two different floors, I finally found it. What’s more amusing is that I didn’t feel hopeless or become worried about the possibility of dementia. My confidence in my memory is so low that I laughed off the incident.

It has become routine that I cannot think of the name of a person or the right word when writing or speaking. I have stopped making efforts to remember words and phrases, as such efforts often fail. Then that name or word that I couldn’t squeeze out of my brain just pops up when it is of no use. Although my brain cannot retrieve the right memory at the right moment, I console myself, “I didn’t forget completely. It’s not dementia.”

My mother used to be like this 30 years ago. She would have to say the names of all my siblings before remembering my name, even when I was right in front of her. When she asked for something, she always had to say, “You know what I mean.” Sometimes, she had to ask, “What was I going to do?” I felt frustrated. I pushed her to speak straight and urged her to keep learning and using her brain. Then my mom would say, “You will understand when you grow old.”

I was so sure that I wouldn’t be like that, but now, my memory is no better than hers. Names always get mixed up, and I often use pronouns when I forget the exact name of the thing or person to whom I was referring. Then my child presses, “What do you want exactly?” or “Speak clearly.”

Now I’ve realized that dementia cannot be prevented by the “preventative methods” recommended by experts. The methods include consuming food good for the brain such as walnuts and fish, keeping a positive attitude, making notes, reading and learning. They don’t seem to help much.

I like the foods that are good for brain, and I am positive and optimistic. I not only read a lot but have a career of writing columns and books. But my dementia is not likely to go away. Memory deterioration is a part of aging.

When my child gets frustrated with me, I cite the old poem, “You can never chase the time that has flown, and you can never see the parents who have passed.” Then I would add, “If you don’t want to regret every other day, please be kind to your mother at this moment.” It would have been great if I had understood the way of life when I was 20.

* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Yang Sunny
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