“So you’ve got it on both sides? Oh my God, you poor kid!” The haircutter was digesting the conversation we’d been having about my life-long bouts of caregiving as she feathered my bangs. I had started with Mom, gone back to Dad and explained how I’d even been my husband’s caregiver, seeing him through cancer after we’d been dating for about a year. But the fact that I had two parents who each had dementia was a noteworthy predicament.
“Well, yeah. My father’s was vascular: he had lots of small strokes going off in his brain. His was related to coronary artery disease, which came from his lifestyle. My mother’s is most likely Alzheimer’s. It runs in her family. But it won’t happen to me.”
“You’ve thought about it?”
“Of course. I know exactly what I’ll do. I won’t hang around. When I stop being the person I value being, I will end it.”
And I mean it. At 53, I am an active person who works to stay fit. I am doing everything in my power to prevent the onset of dementia. I’m hopeful I can hold it off with a healthy lifestyle. But I’m not arrogant enough to think there’s any way to insure that I will escape my parents’ fate. The current research is improving the outlook, but the genetic dice may already be cast.
I don’t have children. I do have three nieces who might be inclined to help me should I start to slip. However, I have no intention of ever putting them in that position. Knowing that the odds are somewhat against me, I am prepared to face the truth head on.
I will be vigilant. I will take care of myself and enjoy my life to the fullest. I will be on guard against the early warning signs. And if I ever get a second opinion indicating the imminent demise of my brain, I will go before it’s too late.
I’ve always had great instincts about when to leave a party. Drifting off blissfully to oblivion in my sleep, unassisted, is a gift I dare not even consider. I don’t know anyone who’s enjoyed that blessing. Not even a pet. I’d like to leave this soiree at 102, taking a magnificent dump in my own bathroom, following a delicious breakfast made with my own two hands, from a recipe I know by heart. And my 36 year old boyfriend finds me after doing the breakfast dishes, poor kid.