Skip to content Skip to navigation

Fear or forgetfulness?

April 14, 2014
by Kathleen Mears
| Reprints

My two best friends, my sister and I are all more than 60 years old and we are beginning to believe that we have shorter memories. Since I have always had an excellent memory, it can be a bit disconcerting.

Recently my sister called to tell me that a nun who taught us in high school had passed away at age 91. When my sister said the nun's name, I had to really think to connect it with her face. As my sister talked about the nun's career, I realized that my sister is three years younger and that I had not heard that nun's name mentioned in 48 years..

Since I am always thinking about several things at once, I can easily ignore people who are talking to me. I have a habit of shaking my head when someone speaks to me and then later I have no idea what was said. Therefore, I have to consciously remind myself to listen when people talk to me.

Facility life can affect a resident's memory. We have few things we need to remember. Medications are scheduled. We are called to meals, activities, smoke breaks, and we are awakened in the morning. The only way to miss a meal is to refuse it.

A couple of aides feel I am too particular about my routine. Because their criticism stresses me out, I have begun to forget relevant steps in it. I think my brain is flipping a switch and removing steps from a queue. That way I can avoid hearing negative feedback from those aides.

I usually do not recall the forgotten step until I start to feel uncomfortable. I consider these brain blips to be "learned behavior." Unfortunately, they have begun to occur when nonjudgmental aides care for me. These aides will ask me what is wrong and remind me that they will do things the way I want without giving me static.

I wonder if residents with dementia forget more because they are afraid of making a mistake or hearing an unpleasant remark from a caregiver.

Healthy fear makes us aware so we can protect ourselves. However, fear of being chastised seems to have inhibited my brain's ability to remember basic steps in my morning routine in the way I get situated to perform my daily tasks.



Kathleen Mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...