The Power of Words

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on the white board on her wall, and when they stood her up–YES, they stood her up merely hours after her hip ball had been replaced by stainless steel!–she started reading the words written on the building across the street outside her window.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.


Is The Memory The First Thing To Go?

My husband and I were lamenting the fact that as we’ve gotten older, it’s far too easy to forget the simplest things. We still joke about the time he was looking for his glasses, which of course were resting on his forehead. Or the time we were searching all over for the remote control, only to have him pull it from the rather deep pocket of the sweater he was wearing.

Notice I’m only sharing my husband’s memory lapses? That’s because I’ve forgotten all of my own. Just kidding. Actually just this weekend I went to my daughter’s bachelorette party (wedding countdown: 2 weeks!) and I remembered most of the important things: gift, cookies for the snack time scheduled in to the day’s events, picture frames we needed for a display — and I walked right by my glasses, sitting on the dryer in the laundry room. I usually have them in my purse, but of course I’d forgotten to return them the last time I drove at night.  Then there was the “little purse incident” when I left my purse at his aunt’s nursing home—only to realize it after we’d traveled two hours away. (Evidently that means I owe my husband the four hours of time we took going back for it. . .) He seems to think “little” and “purse incident” don’t match up. I wonder why?

Those mindless things we do—like casually set my purse down—are the first things to be forgotten. Or setting something down when thinking or doing something else. Happens every day around here!

This is one of the reasons I love the world of books as I do. Characters only forget things they’re supposed to forget, and even if the consequences are dire, the happily-ever-after ending stories I usually choose make everything work out in the end. Ah, a controlled world! Just what I need when I lose my grip on things around me!

So now I’m off to do some reading and writing, and to enjoy the controlled story worlds in my day ahead.


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