Alzheimer’s Disease: A Scary Thought

Elderly WomanWhat was I going to write about? Oh yes, I remember. I just had a senior moment there.

Have you ever felt like that? Are you worried about whether it’s “just” a “senior moment”, or something much more scary – Alzheimer’s?

Losing one’s mental capacity ranks near the top on any list of fears about the future as people get older. The good news about some of our health care advances is that people are living longer. The bad news is that with living longer comes a significant risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia.

Of all the topics we have asked our listeners to comment on from the Dr Carol Show, this one generated more response than any other. When we asked our listeners if they would want to know if they were going to get Alzheimer’s disease, and what they would do differently if they were, here’s a sample of the responses:

Carolyn: “That’s one of my worst fears. I’d do whatever it took not to have the disease.”

Sally: “I’d change many things. More photos and more personal reflections (written).”

Ronae: “I think until there’s a viable way to treat the disease I wouldn’t even bother finding out!”

Suzi: “I hope there is nothing I would have to change. I might write down my feelings so I could see in my own writing how much I loved [my family] and the many memories I hold dear to my heart.”

Greg: “I’d do everything I could to get all my songs cut before that time came so my family and friends would have these gifts that God gave me to remember me by.”

None of us can know the future with certainty. We don’t know what our physical or mental health will be, or how long we will be on this earth. That thought should not frighten us, but it should cause us to think enough about our lives to lessen any regrets.

One remarkable thing about the responses to our questions about Alzheimer’s is that not one person said they would spend more time at work, or buy more things.

Here are four areas I want to make sure of as I look into the unknown future:

  1. Live healthy. Good nutrition and exercising both body and mind cannot guarantee good health, but a healthy lifestyle makes good health much more likely. I’ve seen as a doctor and as a person the effects of unhealthy living, and I know I don’t want that!
  2. Nurture family and friends. I know for certain that I will never regret time and effort spent building and maintaining a strong marriage, nurturing family relationships, and investing in other people close to me. I know I would surely regret more time in career or work at the expense of these relationships.
  3. Risk much. “Don’t die with your music still in you.” I’m not sure who said that, but I want every bit of what’s in me to have a chance to bless others in the world for the sake of God’s Kingdom. That means getting over myself and not worrying about what other people think, or about the risk of failure.
  4. Stay close to God. Whether the time I have left on this earth is one day or fifty years, it is only a breath compared to eternity. My salvation through Jesus is secure. I want to make every investment for eternity now: the payoff will be out of this world!

Sure, I sometimes get frustrated, tired, and miserable. Keeping the long-term perspective helps get past the tough times. And I know I will not regret living by these principles.

Your turn: What would you do differently if you knew your time on this earth was short? What are you doing now to prevent regrets in the future? I’d love to hear from you.

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