Letters to the Editor

The Symphony Bay retirement village and its Golden Years multi-bed dementia center will impact the city with an increase in elderly problems, so perhaps it is a good time to discuss living with the progressive loss of one’s memory and associated abilities, which is difficult for both those who are losing their memory as well as those living with them. Whether it is called senility, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it involves the progressive dismantling of a person through the loss of one’s memory, ability to learn, and ability to function.

Memory is a recorded map of one’s personal life. The importance of one’s memory cannot be overstated because it is the foundation of one’s sanity that enables one to recognize, learn and know one’s surroundings and to know what one has done, and recall one’s experiences. Memory enables us to know who we are, where we are and it puts our life in an organized perspective of space, time, events and people. As one’s loss of memory increases, one can only function with the memory that is left and with it there is a similar reduction in one’s ability to learn and remember new things. Dementia, unlike the impact of stroke or brain injury where recovery and relearning assures some hope and improvement over time, with Alzheimer’s disease it only gets worse. Alzheimer’s is a progressive downhill one-way street.

Our memories have helped to form us into the person we are today and that (oneself) is what is being dismantled and lost. It is the accumulation of those events and our recollection of them combined with our genetics that determines the person we become. No matter what it is called, the progressive loss of one’s memory is a progressive dismantling of a person and their ability to learn, comprehend and eventually even to recognize their surroundings and the people they once knew and even who they are. With each step in the process one experiences confusion, frustration, and fear. That increases as the memory goes and one sits quietly in a larger and larger area of a blank nothingness and uncertainty or at least “It’s not so bad” and the unfamiliar is not as fearful.

Terry O’Neill, Longtime Lake Geneva Resident

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