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Monday, October 19, 2015

Friendship

A Favorite Spot on the Oregon Coast
My very good friend of thirty-plus years has memory problems. Ten years ago they were noticeable and for a brief period of time she was on Aricept. I saw an improvement but she stopped taking them because of the side-effects and she was willing to acknowledge memory problems but not that she might have Alzheimer's or dementia.

Now her condition is moderate to severe.

She's never been one to have dozens of friends but she's always had several. The numbers have dwindled as her memory deteriorated until her childhood friend, who lives in the same city and I, who live across the country from her, are the only ones who have stayed in touch.

With two thousand miles separating us, I can't stop by, take her our to lunch or spend an afternoon visiting over a cup of tea.

But we are friends and have been through much together.

A few classes and her dissertation was all she had left to complete to earn a PhD. Two Master's degrees and hundreds of hours of classes are the result of her being a life long learner who valued education.

Our conversation earlier today was about an organization we both belonged to and where we met. Her frustration that there isn't anything that can be done to stop the erosion of her memory was clear. "If this was happening to young people, something would have been done about it long before now."

I can't argue with her. When I was first working in social services in the 1960's I had people on my case load with "senile dementia" which was a catch-all diagnosis. One woman was in her late 40's. Now that the Baby Boomer generation is aging, the call to action is louder and more research is being done and more medications are being developed.

Judith Ashley
In many ways I'm like my friend. I've always had a few close friends. With her slipping away, my circle is shrinking. My own call to action is to pay attention to the relationships I do have, to reach out and include people my age and younger and to do what I can to protect my brain.

Learn new things
Eat a brain healthy diet
Physical exercise
Social interaction

Social interaction equals staying connected to my friend. It also means keeping myself mentally and physically fit so I can be a part of her life until she no longer knows who I am.

Do you have a someone in your life who has Alzheimer's or another disease that dramatically affects your relationship? How are you dealing with it?

Judith is the author of The Sacred Women's Circle, romantic fiction that honors spiritual traditions that nurture the soul. Hunter, the fifth book in the series is now available.

Follow Judith on Twitter: @JudithAshley19

Check out Judith's website here.

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