Is it Alzheimer’s or a ‘senior moment’?

Short-term memory lapses do not signal Alzheimer’s

alzheimer's or a senior momentDo you sometimes find yourself wondering “Why did I come to the kitchen?” or “Where did I leave my wallet?” It happens to all of us. No reason to worry or imagine the worst. Or perhaps, of late, you’re struggling to remember names. Often, forgetting the name of a place, say the city your cousin’s son has just moved to, or the name of someone you had been introduced to recently, could set alarm bells ringing in your mind. Or perhaps you’re talking about a movie you had seen when you were in college, and suddenly, you’re mortified that you can’t recall the name of the lead actor. His face floats tantalisingly across your mind, but his name, his darn name, escapes you. After what seems like an age, you finally remember.

But then the doubts begin to fill your mind. Is this Alzheimer’s or a senior moment or just plain forgetfulness?

senior momentStatistics tell us that only a small percentage of older people go on to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease resulting from the progressive death of brain cells. This is the most common kind of dementia. It gradually gets worse, leading to not just severe memory loss but also a weakening of thinking and reasoning skills.

On the other hand, failure to recall something is not a disease. Had similar incidents of forgetfulness mentioned earlier happened when you were thirty or forty, you wouldn’t have given them a second thought. Once you cross fifty or so however, every minor memory lapse has you worried and thinking, “This could be a sign of dementia.” And then this makes you feel needlessly anxious, frustrated, and irritated with yourself. Like it happened with me, when my memory failed me recently.

The bane of ageing: taking longer to remember

“Ma’am, you’ll have to do this again,” the young woman at the checkout counter in a popular Mumbai supermarket said, condescendingly surveying the wrinkles on my face. She pushed the card reader towards me and drummed her fingers impatiently on the counter top.

I took a deep breath and tried to figure out what I had done wrong. I thought I had inserted the correct PIN number into the machine, even taking care to cover the keypad so as to hide the number. I’m sharp that way.

While I was pondering over my possible error, the girl at the counter shoved the card reader towards me again. Her irritation was clear on her face as well as in her voice this time.

“Could something be wrong with your machine?” I asked, smiling sweetly.

She probably wanted to say, “Perhaps with your memory, you fossil”. Instead, she shot back, “PLEASE, INSERT THE CORRECT PIN.”

I could sense the fidgeting of the people impatiently standing in the queue behind me. Not wanting to prolong my embarrassment, I said, rather fibbed, loudly, “Ah, I see, I’m using the blue card. The PIN I entered was for my other card, the green one, you see.” All the while I wracked my brains to try and recall that elusive four-digit number.

Finally, the PIN number hit me like a bright light. I was so excited, I shouted it out loud. “I got it! It’s 1464,” I exclaimed. The girl at the counter didn’t share my elation, choosing to roll her eyes instead.

Brain cells in a thousand shades of grey

Relieved to be done with the ordeal, I was waddling across the car park with my grocery bags when a young man came up to me.

“It’s alright Aunty, you were just having a senior moment,” he said smiling, obviously trying to make me feel less uncomfortable about what had happened inside.

Senior moment? Such audacity! You take a little longer to remember things as a senior, and they have a name for it, I was thinking inside my head. Youngsters forget what they mugged up for an exam within a few days. Or probably just one day after the exam. Do they have a name for that? Of course, I didn’t say all this to that kind young man.

“What senior moment?” I said, panting a little. “I have brain cells in a thousand shades of grey, young man.”

“Sure,” he said, still smiling. “But after announcing your PIN to the whole store, you might want to consider changing it,” he added and hurried off. Good thing he reminded me, for the thought had not even crossed my mind.

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Do feel free to share your own embarrassing, so-called senior moments. Or ‘not-yet-senior’ moments if you’re on the other, younger side of the big 6-0.


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Don’t be a “control freak” parent

Do your children a favour. Don’t be a hyper-parent!

meddlesome parentsAround two decades ago, child development researchers Foster Cline and Jim Fay had coined an interesting new term – ‘helicopter parent’. No, they were not referring to parents who are constantly on the move, flitting from one place to another, leaving their children to fend for themselves. Rather the term described people who are obsessed with hovering over their children, being involved in their every action and decision rather than being focussed on raising children capable of making independent decisions when they’re grown up.

What’s even worse than being a helicopter parent of growing children is being a control-freak parent of adult children. Of being a parent who refuses to treat their children as adults after they’ve grown up. Still wanting to have a say in what they wear, what they eat, how they should manage their spouses and their marriage… in other words, refusing to let adult children lead their own lives. Continue reading

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Enjoy your life. Keep it simple.

The joys of simple living

the joys of simple livingA new year has dawned, bringing with it the opportunity to make a new beginning. To learn from past mistakes. Even make a course correction if necessary. Many have made resolutions of all kinds, and I’ve made one too.

As with most of us on the planet, my life has been getting more rushed, more stressful with each passing year. My goal for 2017 therefore is to simplify my life, and in the process, discover the joys of simple living. Want to enjoy your life? Keep it simple. That’s what my inner voice is urging me to do.

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. Confucius had said this, centuries ago. Albert Einstein too had endorsed simple living saying: I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone, best both for the body and the mind. Unfortunately, lots of people fail to understand the wisdom in living simply. For many, acquiring status symbols and impressing others with their expensive possessions has become more important than living happily.

So, have I decided to live like a hermit? No, I’m not contemplating retreating to a cave in the Himalayas or anything as drastic. Here’s how I intend to bring order into the chaos. You could too, if you want to adopt simple living for the rest of your life. Continue reading

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An ode to Mummy

Remembering Mummy

Remember the title song of that classic Hindi movie of yesteryear – Chhoti Si Baat (A little thing)?

an ode to mummyNa jaane kyun? Hota hai ye jindagi ke saath,
Achanak ye man, kisi ke jaane ke baad,
Kare phir uski yaad, chhoti chhoti si baat…

(I don’t know why this happens in life,
But suddenly, after someone has gone away,
The mind begins to remember… every little thing… )

The context of the song may be different, but those lines spell out my thoughts so perfectly. It’s been a decade without Mummy, yet I’ve never stopped remembering every little thing about her. I still remember the smallest things she did for us, her children, out of immense love.

Towards the end of her life, she seemed to be getting more tired with each passing day, and yet she never tired of praying for us, her grown-up children, till the day she died. Through her prayers she fortified our efforts as we fought life’s battles, and strove to stay on the right path. Continue reading

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Great Goan: C. Alvares (1920 – 1999)

A tiatrist and a gentleman

great goan c alvaresWhen a handsome, grey-eyed, young man named Celestino Alvares stepped on to the Konkani stage in the early 1940s to make his debut as a tiatrist, something exciting was taking place in the tiatr world. Thanks to a burst of fresh talent, Konkani tiatr was experiencing a period of rejuvenation and was transitioning into what came to be called the Golden Phase.

Some of the new stars faded away into oblivion in a few years. But some like the immensely talented Celestino shone brighter with the passage of time and continued to dazzle tiatr audiences for decades.

Having started out with singing songs and displaying his acting skills on the Konkani stage, young Celestino moved on to writing scripts and songs for tiatrs and even directing them. Soon, he came to be popularly known as C. Alvares and that’s the professional name be stayed with till he exited from the world stage. Continue reading

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Staying connected in a shrinking world

When a black bear came calling

staying connected in a shrinking worldIn a shrinking world, no-one, not even faraway family is too far away. And thanks to modern technologies, what was once unimaginable is possible today.

For instance, a few days ago, when a black bear came calling late at night at my older son’s house, my husband and I were in a huddle with him and my daughter-in-law about this unexpected visit … in minutes.

a black bear came callingSo what’s unusual about this? Two things. My husband and I were in our house in Navi Mumbai, India; my son was in his own house more than 12,000 kms away in the US. And secondly, as we launched into an animated chat, and my son pointed to where he had seen the enormous black face outside his window and even showed us the muddy mess the bear had made on their door mat, it felt like we were in the same room. Continue reading

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Sermons in stones – Remembering Daddy

A tribute to Daddy

Sermons in stones, grand canyonI looked at the marking “Daddy’s death anniversary” on my calendar this month and thought: It’s eighteen years since I watched him die. Eighteen years? I couldn’t believe it was almost two decades since I’ve been coping with this huge void in my life.

Every year on Dad’s anniversary my siblings and I look back and remember… This year I decided to showcase precious remembrances, and my gratitude to him, on my blog.

But how do you compress the memories of a beloved parent into a few words? How do you squeeze the values you imbibed from him into a single blog post? Seems impossible. Nevertheless, I’m going to try. By shining a light on just one of the many important lessons he taught me… Continue reading

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How much red wine is good for you?

Is red wine good for health?

how much red wine is good for you“What can we get you from Goa?” people I know often ask me when they’re going to my home state. “Be a sweetheart, and get me a bottle of port wine,” I tell them, already feeling lightheaded with the joy of anticipation.

I have to admit it. I love the taste of sweet red wines. Port wine, moscato wine, madeira wine… I love them all. Nice and chilled.

Wine being a once-in-a-way treat for me, I usually never worry about questions like – how much red wine is good for you. But with Christmas just round the corner, red wine sales will soon soar through the roof. So I thought it was a good time to uncork all that wine-scientists have discovered about the good stuff this far. Continue reading

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Between husbands and wives – Part 4

Celebrating Wife Appreciation Day!

it's wife appreciation dayHey folks, it’s that time of the year again. It’s Wife Appreciation Day today. Yippee! Yes, they actually felt the need to have such a day to remind husbands to appreciate their wives – at least once a year – for all that they do for them and the family. Of course there’s that rare breed of husbands who’ll say: Oh, for me, every day is Wife Appreciation Day. God bless these good souls, and may their tribe increase.

Wives cook, dust, clean, nurse, babysit, teach, counsel, comfort, offer moral support; some even work full time to keep the home fires burning, and yet tackle a zillion chores to manage the household. So surely, a teensy-weensy bit of appreciation, even a warm hug, now and then is not asking for too much, is it? Ask any wife and she’ll tell you it’s the small things, the little gestures of affection, that matter most in a marriage. Not the shimmering gold jewellery or an evening out at a fancy restaurant.

wife appreciation dayIt’s true, wives in general could do with a lot more appreciation than they get. Yes, there are some husbands who may go to extreme lengths to shower praises on their wife. And other husbands could sneer that these guys know life would be hell for them if they didn’t pay lavish tributes to their wives, specially in public. But most wives are not such aggressive hellcats.

And what’s wrong with expecting a little appreciation from those closest to us? The need to be appreciated is a basic human craving. No, I didn’t make that up. That’s what the American philosopher and psychologist William James had said. Continue reading

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Learn a new skill. Keep your brain sharp!

You’re never too old to learn a new skill

learn a new skill, keep your brain sharpIt’s true. When you learn a new skill, you not only add an element of excitement to the boredom of your daily routine, you can also keep your brain sharp – at any age! Remember what Henry Ford, the legendary American industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company, had said? Anyone who keeps learning stays young.

Scientific research has shown that the best way to keep our brain sharp is to learn a new skill. When we practise learning something new, changes take place in the networks of our brain and the density of white matter too increases. More about this later in the post.

Agreed, it’s easier to learn new things, pick up new skills, when you’re young because that’s when your body keeps building new brain cells. When you’re older, though it’s less easy, it’s not impossible.

brian mayTake the case of Brian May. He shot to international fame in the 70s as one of the world’s leading musicians when he played as the lead guitarist for the famed British rock band Queen. But that’s not the point. Brian May was always passionate about astronomy and astrophysics. In 2006, at the age of 59, guess what he did. He completed a Ph.D. in astrophysics from the Imperial College in London! How cool is that?

As for those of you who are still not over the hill, remember that if you live long enough, you’ll get there someday. Aging happens to everyone. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait till you cross 60 to learn new things. Develop the habit of lifelong learning now and you could have better mind power than your contemporaries later on. Continue reading

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