Darce Fardy – Pessimism is sometimes hard to avoid

As it was going to print I was told I had dementia. It was noted in the last pages of the book. And there I was with an uncertain future for me and Dorothea and my wonderful family.

If my dementia is not showing improvement then it must be deteriorating. But it doesn’t feel like that. I’m still alert and curious. I just finished reading Dispatches from the Front by David Halton and am reading Peter Neary’s book on Newfoundland’s reluctance to let Canada join us. I have no difficulty with words, and Dorothea will attest to that.

There have been discussions about advanced directives for people with dementia, but I’m not ready yet. As it stands now the law requires that you have to be able to consent closer to death, so the only choice I have is to wait and hope.

Things could always be worse.

One man I read about was diagnosed at 41. Memory loss starts gradually but I don’t feel I will live long enough to experience the worst of it. I don’t want the family to see me as a distressed old man. Old yes, depressed no. I have such richness with Dorothea and my family.

I read somewhere that 24 per cent of boys get dementia and 35 per cent of girls, though there is no explanation of why. Physical activity is stressed. I was aware of that and complied by going back to the gym. There’s no need to be embarrassed if others at the gym notice. My columns like this one have already given me away.

I often wonder if, in an advanced state of dementia, whether I will feel grief when others are grieving, happiness when others are happy, sympathy or empathy when appropriate.

Friends often tell me that memory fades as one gets older. That may be so. I am old, 86 and counting. How long will I live? Pessimism is sometimes hard to avoid. I’m not walking on the sunny side of the street, but overall, things are not bad.

The New Yorker ran a story about a family with a parent with dementia who tried to make his surroundings, wherever he was, look like home. I don’t need that.

Personally, I am not depressed for obvious reasons. I have a wonderful family and faithful friends who visit often. In some sense I am fortunate to be a news junkie, thanks to my many years as a journalist. One might not expect a person with my disease to follow the complexities of what is going on, from Brett Kavanaugh to Justin Trudeau. I eat up politics, newscasts and mysteries.

Meanwhile Dorothea and I have agreed to join a study by phone of dementia titled “exercise as a strategy for dementia.” The organizer had read some of my columns and got my contact info from the local Alzheimer’s society.

So there we are. It’s a weird disease to cope with. I hope to die in clear weather and not in a fog of despair.


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