Friday, 19 September 2014

Have no fear..............

I just read a fascinating article. A woman who turned 90 celebrated her birthday by piloting  a Cessna. Nothing new for her. When she turned 80 she went skydiving and when she turned 85 flew a glider. This is not the first time I've read about a senior doing something daring to celebrate a birthday.  One wonders what it is though, that makes a 90 year old want to fly an air plane or skydive?

When I was young, very young it seems, I had no fear of roller coasters - I looked forward to going to any fair that the scariest rides so I could try them out. But somehow, I grew older and developed a distaste for them. I have decided that its a fear of plummeting to my death - a fear kids evidently don't have - that takes it off my list of favourite things to do....... and I wonder, when I read articles like this, if as I get older, the fear will dissipate and I will be brave enough to try what is now to me, the unthinkable.......... bungee cord jumping!

I wonder too if as people live longer and are healthier for longer we will hear more stories like hers. People do seem to be active far longer than in the past and now it is not uncommon to see older seniors regularly going to a gym to exercise. By extension, does that mean that more will take up flying, skydiving and hang gliding in years to come? Or is it just that some people crave excitement, and danger and never quite grow out of it? Will 90 become the 'new 50' before long?

For whatever its worth, I think its fantastic that a woman of 90 learned to fly a plane. And tried skydiving and everything else this brave 'young' woman has the 'stomach' to do. I suppose in time I will discover if I will be a forever chicken or adopt a 'now or never' attitude. Until then, I will happily enjoy reading about others who actively seize the day!

Monday, 8 September 2014

Thoughts about Alzheimer's Disease

            September is World Alzheimer's Month. I read an article the other day about a family impacted by this horrible disease and it got me to thinking about my own family. For those of you who follow this blog, you will know that my grandmother had Alzheimer's Disease well over 20 years ago. I watched as it stole her from us piece by piece. As her dignity disappeared. As the person we knew, no longer existed. Yes, her body was there, but how horrible that the essence of her as a person we knew, was no longer. On some level, one wonders what disease is better or worse to die from - one where you know what is going on or one where you don't? That being said, no disease is 'good' and all diseases take with them the hidden victims that are rarely accounted for in the statistics we are so often presented with - those who love and look after the afflicted person.
          My window into illness, as a former hospital social worker, has given me a perspective on many diseases. I have watched many people struggle with issues around death and dying and witnessed families bind together or pull apart because of disease. This sort of stress can bring out the best or the worst in people I suppose. At the time our own family went through it, I was not yet a social worker but I do believe that the professional I became, was in large part shaped by that life experience.
          I think, what makes Alzheimer's so difficult a disease to witness, is the progression. There are people who can live many years with it. And in some cases, at risk of wandering which necessitates them being institutionalized in a 'secure unit' for their own safety. How horrible it must be to visit your loved one in such a place!  Knowing they will never be well. Watching and waiting for them to die. I remember meeting a woman whose husband had early onset Alzheimer's in his 40's, and lived for many years with it. She said in the early years they never knew what was wrong with him but in the end, they lost everything because of his inability to work for so many years. She is one of the statistics of people living off basic pension but it is only because she was dealt a 'bad hand' in the game of life. My heart went out to her as I tried to imagine how someone like her managed to raise a family and care for a sick husband for so many years.
             With our increasing aging population, I worry about what the future holds for our seniors of tomorrow. Will we have the resources to cope with the many people afflicted? Will the dollars spent on research give us a cure or at the very least a means of delaying or diminishing the impact of the disease? Will we find better ways to provide care for those greatest at risk? It's fitting that the symbolic flower the disease are 'forget me nots' however, the irony is that for any family that has witnessed the disease first hand, the last thing you can do is forget the person or the disease that led to their slow demise.