Were those signs of impending dementia?
January 16, 2010 2 Comments
Well, my father tried reading it. He read two chapters, then gave up, but he did say that maybe, if he was younger, he would have been able to read more. He then switched back to the bestseller he was reading.
I had hoped for more encouragement and enthusiasm from my mother. She had always been more of a reader, and always seemed so much more alert and intelligent. She did not open the book. I don’t read such books, she declared, as if the book was beneath her dignity in some way. My father tried to suggest she could give it a try (It is well-written, he said). She glared at him, as if even the suggestion was an imposition.
I remember how disappointed and hurt I felt. She didn’t even try! Not too many people go around writing books, and I thought it was an achievement she could have shared with us. I remember going to her room and seeing the book lying untouched. That is the first time I realized that my mother was not reading much those days. This was the woman who made me read Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens, and who could speak for hours on various schools of philosophy – and though her room still had plenty of J Krishnamurthy and Paul Brunton and Annie Beasant, those books were neatly in their shelves. What she was reading, I realized, was only magazines – Woman’s Era, Femina. No Times or Newsweek, either.
That night, as I registered that her refusal to read my book could be because she couldn’t, I assumed she had let herself slip. She was taking things too easy, and her standard was slipping.
Looking back now, I wonder: Was her unwillingness to exert herself and stretch her reading the reason her cognitive ability suffered (sort of use it or lose it), or was it the other way around – had she already started experiencing some difficulties, and scared to admit it, decided to stay away from stuff she found increasingly difficult?
And if, indeed, her unwillingness to read complex stuff was an early sign of cognitive decline (instead of a cause of it), what could I have done differently to help her?
My mother was (I use the past tense because she is a different person now) a very proud woman. she would have exploded had I dared suggest that she stretches her mental muscles, and completely denied that there was a problem (and this is exactly what she did five years later, when I realized what was going on and tried to point it out to her…more on that some other day).
Newspapers and magazines nowadays carry enough articles on mild cognitive decline and how metal activity can help keep problems at bay. Perhaps, if she had read enough of them to plan ahead and build mental exercise habits, life would have been different for her (and us). I wonder how she felt when her own intellect started betraying her…it must have been so difficult.
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