Monday, January 11, 2010

Health and cognition

I'm vaguely putting together bits of wisdom that I want to impart to Eldest before she leaves for college. In the past few days, as I've been mainly in bed coughing and tossing and turning, I added:

  • Never make any major decisions or have important discussions about relationships when it's late at night, you're tired, hormonal, or sick.
It's amazing how depleted the brain becomes when the body is ill. When Andrew and I were first married, his dad came to live with us. Dad had dementia, caused by a brain contusion when he fell in the bathroom and lay undiscovered for six hours. That happened the weekend after we told him we were engaged. We spent most of our engagement period alternating flying to Florida to check in on him, and trying to figure out where to have him live once he was released from the nursing home. The family of the woman with whom he shared his apartment was not willing to have him live there any longer once he was unable to take care of her.

The long and the short of it was that Dad moved in with me the week before the wedding. Andrew moved in afterwards. It was a challenging start to a marriage, which ultimately made having children seem relatively easy. Medicaid paid for someone to stay with Dad from 9-5, but since both of us worked, that left an hour or more gap at the beginning and end of each day. Because Dad couldn't always tell the difference between what was on TV and what was real life, he'd often think a robber was at the door. I had to stand on the other side, convincing him of who I was when I got home. Half the time he was standing inside ready to bash my head with something (usually innocuous, but not always). If you ever have to live with someone with Alzheimer's or another dementia,  I strongly recommend a book called The 36 Hour Day. It's incredibly helpful.

There were ups and downs with Dad, but when he was sick his mental functioning declined noticeably. I suspect the same happens to all of us to a lesser degree, but we don't notice it because our baseline is so much higher. We think we're thinking clearly, but when we're well again and looking back, that time seems like a fog.

At any rate, I am better but not well yet. Work is waiting to be done. School (it's Pajama Monday, thankfully!) is waiting to be led. So whether I'm fully cognizant or not, life has to go on. I just won't make any big decisions or have any meaningful discussions, right?

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