Tip Toe

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I care a lot about my friends. Perhaps that’s because all my blood
relatives are dead or live far away. So my fiends are the biggest part
of my life for social engagements and emotional comfort. When one of
us is sick, the others rally round. Lately I’ve seen “slippage” in a friend
that is part of a weekly bridge game. She seems to have trouble telling
a story (even one we’ve all heard before) and makes more mistakes
on a regular basis than we are used to. Her physical health seems fine
but there is a feeling of hesitation, like she is working very hard to
maintain the organization of her life and it is taking a lot more out of
her than she has on reserve. She was once a very accomplished
pianist but has stopped playing. There are more symptoms, though I
do not know if other people are seeing them and I don’t want to gossip
about her. Is there a delicate way to start a conversation about what I
am afraid is a serious decline in her mental health?

Tip Toe

Dear Tip Toe:

You can approach this overtly or covertly. Overtly would be to say,
gently, [Name], you seem more absent-minded lately. Is everything
ok or is something bothering you that you want to talk to someone
about? I don’t want to be an alarmist, but if this is health related,
better look into it sooner than later. More covertly would be to claim
you are having the symptoms that you attributing to her. Then the
convo goes more like, I’m concerned because I feel more absent
minded lately. I’m going to do some research, online and with the
relevant support groups. Will you please be my partner and ally in this
educational process? I want us sharp for a long long time!

If you have any connection with a younger relative of hers, you could
ask if they are seeing any signs of slippage. The family has a strong
vested interest in catching things early. But if you talk to any third
person, be it family or friend, know that it will inevitably get back to
her. So start with her to create a safe space, and then see what she
says. No matter what, it behooves all of us to know symptoms of not
only aging, which includes the proverbial senior moments, but of more
serious conditions. Aging has blessings and curses, but most f the time
they outweigh the alternatives.