The last few days I’ve been forgetful and scattered and I’m worried. Especially when I just read about a University of Toronto study on elderly authors (some dead, some alive) whose novels in their advanced years show if they had or have Alzheimer’s. P.D. James, still alive and writing prolifically at 89 has no dementia showing. One of my favourite mystery authors when I was growing up and a young(er) adult, Agatha Christie, did.
So, when I lost a pendant, but not the chain, somewhere while out shopping and didn’t realize it until I went to remove it that night, “forgot” to buy a new shower curtain, “forgot” what the original thing was for returning a call to a friend (she forgot, too), plus a few other little things (which, horrors, I can’t remember now), I began to wonder: has the Big A finally entered my brain. Especially as I see I’ve use the word “thing” three times in this paragraph, one of the specifics noted in this Alzheimer’s study.
Some of my Strauss relatives on my mother’s side of the family had Alzheimer’s, my maternal grandmother, my godfather, my godmother. and a first cousin once removed (I hate that classification; sounds as if she’s been booted out of the family). My mother, who died at 63, didn’t live long enough to be diagnosed with the Big A, but she showed a few signs. As I write in my memoir:
“What do you want for dinner tonight?” Mom asks me.” She’s been home from the hospital for a few months. “Steak ok?”
“Sure,” I reply.
“Okay. I’ll take the steak out of the freezer.”
Instead she takes out the bacon and I have the nerve to scold her about it. But I’m not all bad. I’m giving her part of my salary to pay for the food and with her help, I’m learning to plan menus and do a grocery list, based on the specials at the different grocery stores.
(Excerpted from You Can Go Home. Copyright 2010 Sharon Crawford.)
But what did I do this weekend but leave a dish of tuna on the kitchen counter beside the fridge while I went out for a few hours. Is my brain following my mom’s or is this just yet another “senior moment?” As for that U of T study, Ian Lancashire, an English professor, Graeme Hirst, a computational linguist, and graduate student Xuan Le, with knowledge from Dr. Regina Jokel, a researcher and language pathologist at Toronto’s Baycrest Hospital, used computer software to study the cognitive functions of authors who wrote in their later years. They studied the earlier and later works of Iris Murdock, P.D. James and Agatha Christie. Before this study, it was known that Murdock had Alzheimer’s, but Agatha Christie? That was a revelation.
The writings of authors who have Alzheimer’s show a huge decrease in vocabulary and a huge increase in repetition, plus overuse of non-specifics such as “thing” and “something.” You can check out more information on the study at http://www.research.utoronto.ca/headlines/study-claims-agatha-christie-had-alzheimers/
As for my forays into forgetfulness, I’m blaming it on too much going on in my life and only me to keep track, plus not enough sleep. And I’m calling it a few “senior moments.” At least that’s the thing I tell myself. The thing of it is, I’m going to check and re-check my writing several times using the Flesch thingy reading scale.
That should do it.