My mother's face stares back at me from the mirror these days. Each birthday brings new aches and pains, plus there's usually a new symptom or two that make it a requirement to go in to the doctor every three months for "maintenance". And then completely random stuff happens to remind me that I am on the downside of life........like the TV commercial that came out recently, selling funeral-insurance plans to people who were born between 1925 and 1970. 1970!! That was the year of Apollo 13, the year I started my periods........how could anyone born then possibly be old enough to plan his or her own funeral?
Then it hit me: 1970 was FORTY YEARS ago. Back then, I'd listen to people reminiscing about events that occurred long before I was born and thought they had to be older than God. I couldn't even imagine being able to remember back that far. Now I realize that I myself am now in that category.......for why else would my once-sharp mind be turning to mush??
No, seriously: far more often than I'd like, I find myself needing an object, looking at it, pointing at it, trying to make someone else give it to me........and being utterly incapable of saying its name. I used to laugh at the notion that Alzheimer's isn't when you forget your keys, but when you forget what keys are for; now I'm beginning to wonder what it means when you ask your dearly beloved where they are and it comes out like, "Honey, do you know where the.......you know......um....I'm going to the car......it's on the tip of my tongue........I need the........HOOJAFLOBBETS!!"
That's one of the words I've come to use whenever I can't spit out the actual word for whatever it is I'm talking about, and it's caught on....even at work, where (to the endless amusement of my co-workers and residents) I seem to experience a wide variety of, ahem, "sometimer's moments". These never occur when I'm in the middle of an emergent situation, thank God; but when I'm just piddling along, dealing with routine tasks, I'll need a dressing or a piece of equipment that I can't get to for some good reason, and suddenly my brain seizes up, rolls over, and plays dead:
"Hey, Amee, could you bring me that---that---oh, you know what I mean, I need that dooflotchee there," I splutter, waving my arm in the general direction of the item I'm requesting. What's funny is, she's worked with me long enough to know just WHICH dooflotchie I mean, and she always brings the right one. "Oh, you want this dooflotchie," she'll say with a little smirk, delivering the pulse oximeter (or whatever) as swiftly as possible. Most of the other CNAs who work with me also know my code words (and use them); however, being younger, they cannot know the frustration I feel when I look directly at, say, the LED candle on my living-room table and try to tell someone about it (my SIL gave it to me for Christmas, it runs on batteries, flickers like a real candle, and can even be blown out like a real candle etc.), only to be unable to name the darned thing.
Another indignity that I suffer happens sometimes when I'm in the middle of a conversation and my mind wanders off for a moment, like a three-year-old watching a butterfly, then goes off on a totally unrelated tangent: "Have you met the new admit in 305? He's street-rat crazy........even asked the aide for a porno magazine, can you imagine......OMG, I'm loving that 'Spartacus' show on Starz, the guy who plays him is hot, hot, HOT!"
Then there's the matter of distractibility. I used to be able to focus on a single task like a laser beam; now, I'm lucky just to finish a project in several parts. Typically I'm heading down the hall to do a relatively complex task, such as changing the Stage IV pressure ulcer dressing in room 311, when I'm paged to the phone; after dealing with the call, I forget what I'd planned to do and go check the dialysis shunt in 303 instead. This prompts me to run down to 312 to flush her PICC line; during that process, 308 asks for a couple of pain pills, and while I'm popping them I remember the wound care so I grab the needed items along with the meds and head back down the hall. I manage to set the supplies down in 311 before an aide reports a new skin tear on the lady in 304; since it doesn't take long to clean, dress, and document such an injury, I take care of it and then it's time to check the eight or nine FSBS I have to do before dinner. Once those are done, I go back down to 311 and actually have the old dressing off before I'm paged for yet another phone call. This one is a family member who wants someone to go down to 313 (who is blind) and hand her cell phone to her so she can talk to him.
That accomplished, I trot back to 311, flush the wound with the prescribed solution, then prepare the skin for the new dressing to be applied. This is about the time when I get pelted with questions from the CNAs---"Do you want me to get Rose up for dinner? She's refusing." "What was Lula's blood sugar? She doesn't look right." "You better come to the dining room, Bill's getting in Ray's face and you know how Ray acts out...." Dressing change? What dressing change?
Finally, some ninety minutes later, everyone has eaten and I've taken my half-hour lunch break. That's when I realize that poor 311 STILL hasn't gotten his dressing replaced, and I scoot back down the hall to find him fast asleep, lying on his side where I'd placed him so I could reach the coccyx without standing on my head. I finish the job without disturbing him, and wonder for the umpteenth time if it's just a matter of too many distractions, or if I'm just losing what few marbles I had. I mean, there are days when I'm pretty sure I could hide my own Easter eggs.
Of course, I know that younger people have bouts of forgetfulness (my nineteen-year-old son is a major offender, especially when it comes to taking out the garbage Thursday nights) . It's when we get into our 50s that we start to worry about it.
Hey, you're not busy, I'd really appreciate it if you could you hand me that.......uh, that hoojaflobbets right there next to you. Thanks. What was your name again?