This lady will be celebrating her 89th birthday in a month. Unfortunately, she also fell and broke her hip last Wednesday. We were horrified at the time, because she’s Mel’s mother, and she has Alzheimer’s. Conventional wisdom is that when someone her age falls and breaks a hip, it’s a death sentence, but we have high hopes that she’s going to recover and return to the care center where they are experts with Alzheimer’s and dementia. She’s happy there, she has lots of friends, her mind is constantly stimulated.
After our initial concern for her life, we began to worry about her mind. When someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia (as my own mother had until she passed away earlier this year), has general anesthesia, it can destroy more brain cells and greatly worsen her mind. This was what happened to my mother last summer. Had we realized this then, we would have asked the anesthesiologist for a spinal block instead of general. The surgery my mother had took her mind and she was never the same. She couldn’t even read or work her word puzzles afterward. So when it came time for Mel’s mother to have her surgery, he met her surgeon in the wee hours of the morning and instructed him to give a spinal block. If you remember nothing else about this blog, please remember this: if you or an older loved one need surgery, spinal block can spare so much of the brain, because the brain is not placed into a deep sleep. The brain is barely affected.
The surgeon did as Mel asked, and when his mother opened her eyes, she started to read! She looked at words that had been written on the white board on her wall, and when they stood her up–YES, they stood her up merely hours after her hip ball had been replaced by stainless steel!–she started reading the words written on the building across the street outside her window. She’s been reading ever since. The next time we visited her, I took her a large print Reader’s Digest magazine, and she already had her Bible. Oh, the power of the written word! Not only can it inspire us, change our lives, give us direction, entertain us, but it can literally save our minds. SAVE them.
When my mother learned that she was in the early stages if dementia several years ago, she started working on word puzzle books. She always had one in her hand. She also read constantly. I believe she prolonged the good years by protecting her brain as much as she could by exercising it with words. When she stopped reading and lost her ability to understand words, I knew it was only a matter of time before she lost everything, but she prolonged the good years by using words.
Of course, as a writer, I’m bound to believe in the power of words, but my belief has been affirmed by the experiences I’ve had in the past few years. Never give up your reading skills. They will enrich the last years of your life, and possibly prolong them.