Wanna Stay Me

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I’m 63. I have a wide array of friends ranging in age from early 40’s
through latter 70’s. In the ones closest to my own age, I am beginning
to see signs of mental decay worse than the younger ones and even
than some of the older ones. Not so much the occasional forgetfulness
about appointments or phone numbers that’s common to aging but
what seem like bigger chunks of their brains that are starting to be
less reliable. I don’t know whether to say something directly to them,
gently ask a family ember of they’ve observed anything similar, or do
nothing. I’m also wondering if it’s my own projected fears. Having
seem my own parents succumb to Alzheimer’s I am especially
sensitive to the issue. I always said I’d shoot myself before I put my
kids through what I had to experience, but that seems more like a
younger person’s hyperbole than a realistic life plan.
Wanna Stay Me

Dear Wanna Stay Me:
I suggest consulting folks who are experts on aging brains. I’m sure
there are local Alzeimers support groups as well as lots of information
online about early warning signals to pay attention to, as well as
things you can do to sharpen your own brain. As someone who’s
decided to learn Biblical Hebrew, I can attest to the value of stretching
your neural network with new information. Scientists who study
animals in new situations have observed what they call “dendritic
branching” in their brains, an image I translate as expansion of the
Tree of Life in our head.

As for your friends, to bring up the topic of memory loss over lunch or
tea. You can make it humorous, as in I found myself standing in the
middle of the kitchen and couldn’t remember why! Or I got two blocks
from my house and realized that without the errand list I’d left on the
kitchen table, I‘d just be wasting my time. Keep it light unless you
really sense someone has something to hide or a lot of shame about
the topic. Then get more serious and personal, though one-on- one. I                             would not engage relatives unless you have personally observed
something worrisome. You’ll just create a lot of anxiety and possibly
unneeded intervention. But if you think something is really wrong, yes
then speak up to a spouse of loving child, starting with Have you
noticed so-and- so “slipping” at all? Then listen and learn how to help.