Some days, there are no faults in our stars.

The autumn rain is falling outside, and it is night as I write this. I have showered, and in fresh pyjamas I am in my bed, about to start an early night of slumber, but not before letting the cosmos know that The Great Whatever was kind and generous to me this day, as it was a perfect day.

Perfect in that all went to plan. Our author was professional, and generous with his time, energy and experience. The students were attentive, inquisitive and well behaved. Hallelujah! The creative writers’ group were enthralled, full of questions and so open it melted my heart.

I spent the entire day with our guest author and learnt so very much from him. I am exhausted, of course having to be nice all day is difficult at the best of times, but somehow today I felt as though I have been rewarded for curbing my evilosity.

Minerva was so kind and helpful as well, and when I thanked her for being such a trooper all day, be smiled and replied, “That’s because we are a team”. I love that damn woman.

I have adrenalin pumping but I am so tired at the same time. I wish I could write all the authorial gems of wisdom down now to share with you, but my mind is still trying to process it all.

And to top it off, our author stayed in a room next to the room that John Green stayed in at a German Writers’ Festival and they had dinner together one night! He also appears in one of Green’s vlogs – that tipped the girls in the writers group right over the groupie edge. – “You met John Green!” I told him we may have  to stroke him before he leaves…and we did, metaphorically at least. The students left with autographs and free signed books.

Some days, there are no faults in our stars.

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starting the day with a start

round1

The alarm didn’t go off and so I slept an hour past by usual rising time. Luckily I had some frozen lunches and threw that into my bag, and had showered the night before due to having to turn water on and off outside. Augie missed out on his usual morning play with me, and I couldn’t linger over my cup of tea, but I made it to school only about 15 minutes later than usual. The benefit of an extra hour of sleep was totally lost in the rush though.

I forgot to put my belt on and as I had long pants on, I spent the day hoisting them back up which was rather annoying, especially as it was a day I was on my feet a lot and not just sitting at my desk!

Tomorrow (today when this is published) I have an author coming to speak to the students about his books. This author was, some years ago, a teacher at our school and some of the long term staff worked with him. One current teacher was actually taught by him! Should be an interesting day. After school he is taking my creative writing students for a workshop, which is such a wonderful opportunity for them especially as a couple are very serious about being writers. I told them they must dedicate their success, and first books, to me!

Must remember to set the alarm correctly; and wear a belt!

warning men at work

The boys, Mr FD and Son have had a very eventful day at home.

Mr FD set the fire alarm off by cleaning the bar-b-que outside on the patio. He started to clean it while it was hot, and so the cleaning product started to smoke and the smoke went in through our bedroom window and set off the fire alarm.

... and the expected life span of  Mr FD

… and the expected life span of Mr FD

On the weekend, I suggested that is was time to call the plumber to fix the leaking tap in the main bathroom. Mr FD decided he would see to it, and took it apart, checked on the internet and found that it was superseded and so a replacement part could not be procured. He put it back together again, and said he would follow up today.

He certainly did, when I wanted to shower tonight, Mr FD had to go outside and turn the water back on while I showered and then turn it off afterwards, to stop the water gushing out of the bathroom basin tap.

The plumber is due in the morning. Sometimes I am actually thankful that I am out of the house all day…

Dementia 101 : What I found while looking around

Glucose Levels and Risk of Dementia

Paul K. Crane, M.D., M.P.H., Rod Walker, M.S., Rebecca A. Hubbard, Ph.D., Ge Li, M.D., Ph.D., David M. Nathan, M.D., Hui Zheng, Ph.D., Sebastien Haneuse, Ph.D., Suzanne Craft, Ph.D., Thomas J. Montine, M.D., Ph.D., Steven E. Kahn, M.B., Ch.B., Wayne McCormick, M.D., M.P.H., Susan M. McCurry, Ph.D., James D. Bowen, M.D., and Eric B. Larson, M.D., M.P.H.

N Engl J Med 2013; 369:540-548August 8, 2013DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1215740

 

CONCLUSIONS

Our results suggest that higher glucose levels may be a risk factor for dementia, even among persons without diabetes. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health.)

 

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1215740

 

 

Omega 3 fatty acid for the prevention of cognitive decline and dementia

Sydenham, Emma, Dangour, Alan D., & Lim, Wee-Shiong. (2012). Omega 3 fatty acid for the prevention of cognitive decline and dementia. Sao Paulo Medical Journal, 130(6), 419. Retrieved April 28, 2014, from http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1516-31802012000600013&lng=en&tlng=en. 10.1590/S1516-31802012000600013.

 

AUTHORS’ CONCLUSIONS: Direct evidence on the effect of omega-3 PUFA on incident dementia is lacking. The available trials showed no benefit of omega-3 PUFA supplementation on cognitive function in cognitively healthy older people. Omega-3 PUFA supplementation is generally well tolerated with the most commonly reported side-effect being mild gastrointestinal problems. Further studies of longer duration are required. Longer-term studies may identify greater change in cognitive function in study participants which may enhance the ability to detect the possible effects of omega-3 PUFA supplementation in preventing cognitive decline in older people.

 

http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S1516-31802012000600013&script=sci_arttext

 

 

Midlife overweight and obesity increase late-life dementia risk

A population-based twin study

W.L. Xu, MD, PhD, A.R. Atti, MD, PhD, M. Gatz, PhD, N.L. Pedersen, PhD, B. Johansson, PhD and L. Fratiglioni, MD, PhD

 

Conclusions: Both overweight and obesity at midlife independently increase the risk of dementia, AD, and VaD. (Alzheimer disease (AD), and vascular dementia (VaD) Genetic and early-life environmental factors may contribute to the midlife high adiposity–dementia association.

 

http://www.neurology.org/content/76/18/1568.short

 

Possible Role of Vascular Risk Factors in Alzheimer’s Disease and Vascular Dementia.

(PMID:24641219)

 

The contribution of vascular risk factors to Alzheimer-vascular spectrum dementias is increasingly being recognized. We provide an overview of recent literature on this subject. Overweight and obesity as well as underweight during midlife predict cognitive decline and dementia later in life. Hypertension during midlife is also associated with dementia later in life and the association is stronger for untreated hypertension. Calcium channel blockers, angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, and angiotensin-1 receptor-blockers may be particularly beneficial in diminishing the risk of dementia associated with hypertension. Studies have fairly consistently shown that type 2 diabetes is a risk factor for dementia. Episodes of hypoglycemia add to this risk. Regular physical exercise during any point in the lifespan protects against cognitive decline and dementia. Most benefit is realized with physical exercise during early and midlife. Dyslipidemia also increases the risk of dementia but the findings are less consistent. Findings on the possible benefit of lipid-lowering agents (statins) are conflicting. Earlier studies identified smoking as protective of dementia but recent better designed studies have consistently shown that smoking increases the risk of dementia. The association of vascular risk factors with dementia is more robust for vascular dementia than Alzheimer’s disease. Heterogeneity of studies and lack of trials specifically designed to assess cognition as an endpoint make firm conclusions difficult. But considering the expected global burden of dementia and projected attributable risk of vascular risk factors to it, there is sufficient evidence to promote vascular risk factor reduction strategies as dementia prevention interventions.

http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/24641219/reload=0;jsessionid=1NzoYwg9BETnOVEE6GIn.22

 

Yaffe K, Laffan AM, Harrison S, et al. Sleep-Disordered Breathing, Hypoxia, and Risk of Mild Cognitive Impairment and Dementia in Older Women. JAMA. 2011;306(6):613-619. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1115.

 

Context Sleep-disordered breathing (characterized by recurrent arousals from sleep and intermittent hypoxemia) is common among older adults. Cross-sectional studies have linked sleep-disordered breathing to poor cognition; however, it remains unclear whether sleep-disordered breathing precedes cognitive impairment in older adults.

Objectives To determine the prospective relationship between sleep-disordered breathing and cognitive impairment and to investigate potential mechanisms of this association

Conclusion Among older women, those with sleep-disordered breathing compared with those without sleep-disordered breathing had an increased risk of developing cognitive impairment.

http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1104205

The journey to what?

brain 1

For the last few years there had been an anxiety lingering in my head that was just an occasional voice at first, but over time has turned up its volume to the point where I think I need to do something about it. Either confronts it, and turn it out, or learn more about it and welcome it inside. I am talking about dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, whatever you want to tag it, but it all means the same thing – the loss of self at some stage in the ageing process. Sometimes, cruelly even before the ageing process.

 

I was introduced to dementia through my father. It was his constant companion for about the last five years of his life. It started with a phone call to my mother who was staying with me for a few days. A normal day until Dad phoned and said that he had suffered “a funny turn” and he wanted Mum to come home. My Dad rarely acknowledged any illness and so for him to call and summon help we knew it was serious. It was serious; it was the day all our lives changed forever.

 

From that day on it was doctor’s visits and having my heart stop in my chest every time the phone rang at unexpected times. I started answering calls with the greeting “What’s wrong?” Everything was wrong.

 

Dad had a long series of TIAs and he was well aware of what was happening to him. He would tap his head and say “There’s something wrong with my head”. There were good days and bad days, until there were never any good days. In the end, he could no longer be cared for by family; we had to search for a care facility for him.

 

There was a sitcom in Australia a few years back called, “Mother and Son” where supposedly the mother suffered from dementia. Its entire premise was that mother’s odd ways and unpredictable behavior created humorous mayhem. It also mythologized the idea that dementia was nothing more than putting the teapot in the freezer, or forgetting where you parked the car. If only.

 

However, all through Dad’s journey, we comforted ourselves by the “fact” that the doctors said that his early habit of smoking, and his life long battle with alcohol brought about his heart issues which caused the TIAs and in turn the dementia, even though in his last decade he had lived a healthier life style that ever before in his entire life. The man even took up jogging, and continued jogging until he could no longer remember how to find his way home (thank heavens they lived in a very small country town!)

 

Dad had always been a quick tempered man. He was prone to outbursts of temper. Not domestic violence, but verbal anger. However, in his earlier days, when he frequented hotels for drinking companions he apparently was known for laying on a punch or two if he felt the need arise.

 

As the Dad I knew and loved disappeared another man took his place; a man who was unpredictable, often angry and more than a little aggressive. One day I went through the kitchen removing large knives, no longer confident of my mother’s safety. This was not my Dad, and yet it was as if some elements of his personality became magnified; taking control of what consciousness he still possessed.

 

Dad died at the age of 76, in a mental institution in 2000; a mental institution because no lock down facility was available for him in our region. The “old people’s homes” only want you if you still quietly in a chair all day.

 

After, Dad’s death, the fear of dementia and the possibility that it might choose me, or one of my siblings, was there, hovering in the back of my thoughts. Still, we consoled ourselves, the doctors said it was his smoking and drinking… and I did neither. Well, one glass now and again. I had seen too much of alcohol to ever fully embrace it. So no real need to fear dementia.

 

Then there was Mum. Every year on her birthday, I would ask her how it felt to be 80, 81, 82… and she would answer that she never felt any different than when she was 21. She didn’t seem any different. Well, maybe she forgot names, and got facts a little confused, but heavens she was in her eighties, a little forgetfulness was to be expected.

 

There were a couple of episodes where she called relatives with urgent messages for my sister, such as “the garage called and your car is ready for pick up” when my sister did not have her car in for a service. One time she convinced herself that she had given all her bank account details to the check out girl at the supermarket and made a relative take her to the bank to change things. They were isolated though and well, she was in her eighties.

 

Then came the day my sister found her lying on the floor and the world changed its axis again. She couldn’t understand why she was in the hospital as there was nothing wrong with her, and she had never collapsed onto the floor we were making that up.

 

Two years on Mum is in a care facility, a compliant little old lady who sits in her chair, as she has begun to forget how to walk. She can’t remember that Dad has died, and often asks where her own parents are. I think she knows me when I visit, but she can’t remember that I am now a grandmother. This year on her birthday, I asked her how it felt to be 87 and she looked at me and said “Am I?” We can no longer have a complete conversation as her thoughts wander mid sentence.

 

Mum was always an anxious, fearful person. Now she worries that people will steal her few worthless belongings that she has. Whenever someone gives her something she wants us to take it home so that it doesn’t get broken or stolen. She is always worrying about “the children”. “Where are the children?” Everything annoys her.

 

So, roll of the dice and two parents with dementia/alzeiheimers. Lucky me. Two different types of dementia too. So, I can’t pretend that it was just Dad’s life style. The voice now taunted “What might be in your genes?” What might be, indeed?

The other element that disturbs me is that in both my parents, it was the negative elements of their personalities that seemed to emerge as they, the whole they, disappeared. Was this coincidental, or was that what happened; the worst in us, the bits we could control or hide when in full possession of our faculties, emerges when we no longer have any defenses?

 

If so, what am I to become? It is painful enough having the person you love disappear, but to be left with only the worst parts of that person is like hammering a nail into your heart as well. This is not something I want my children to have to experience in my later years.

 

Is this inevitable, can it be avoided? Can a mindset be cultivated that might avoid such an ending? I know the older one becomes the more likelihood there is of dementia developing, but does the world view, personality type or life experiences have some impact upon how it is experienced?

 

I think this is the journey I need to take; a journey to see if I can somehow limit or offset the impacts of an ageing mind. Would a serene, mindful existence have staved off my Mum’s dementia, and the fears she now experiences? Lifestyle, diet, habits of the mind – anything?

 

I think the voice in my head is seeking some answers.

eating my words?

Reading one of those “ten ways to start your novel” by some “best selling author” that I have never heard of, is my tried and true way to procrastinate about actually writing that novel that I have waiting to write since I was twelve years old. I guess it is the modern equivalent of tidying a desk, choosing the right paper and lining the pencils up, all nicely sharpened. Busy Business that gets me nowhere.

 

However, at the end of the authors web page was an advertisement for statins. If high cholesterol is a requirement for being a successful author, I am an over achiever in that area.

 

Which reminds me, this was the delicious salad that Daughter1 created for our ANZAC Day lunch – spinach, roasted beetroot and pumpkin, chickpea and goat’s cheese with olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. Superb.

salad ANZAC