December 31, 2020

Living with “Dementia Don”—Why we Must Care for our Minds.

I’ve spent the past three years actively and intentionally taking care of my mind and reducing stress whenever possible.

I exercise my mental capacity by playing board games, brain training apps, and puzzles.

I dedicate a good deal of effort for brain health, but I also let my curiosity run wild when it wants to.

Just like most relationships, I have good days and bad days.

My father was diagnosed with semantic dementia six years ago.

This type of dementia affects the ability to associate the correct meanings to words (semantic skills, such as word usage, phrases, sentences, and speaking are hindered). The progression of this degenerative disease takes its toll on a person’s health and lifestyle.

With an increase of stressful and unhealthy lifestyles, we are seeing a correlated rise in dementia  and Alzheimer’s cases globally. While there has been more research and exposure in this field, it’s at a much slower rate than the affliction—one that doesn’t seem to be losing speed anytime soon.

My family and I have had our own individual and collective journeys coming to terms with my father’s diagnosis. Over the years, we’ve tried to move from a place of “why?” to “what now?”

We could have spent our time trying to pinpoint a cause for this troubling, degenerative disease, but we found it more helpful to focus on how to move forward, while doing our best to maintain our sanity.

Every day is a new colorful adventure and an opportunity to build character.

I like to call my dad, “Dementia Don.”

This term of endearment brings to light his ability to hold on to his gangster swag—even as he endures this disease.

I use the term “gangster swag” to bring the tonality of fun and tenacity that he lives his life with every day.

Even though he is unable to hold a conversation or articulate himself the way he did in the past, he still maintains his essence in several different ways.

He’s so much more than just a dementia patient.

He’s a living and breathing person filled with an array of energy and emotions.

My father values independence and being heard. He cares about our family. Sometimes, he has tantrums and devises sneaky ways to steal snacks and sweets when we aren’t looking.

The difficult episodes are a strong reality check, but in those moments, we remember he is a dynamic person with various characteristics. I remind myself to be patient with who he is, as time goes by progressively.

Having learnt many lessons along the way, the one I hold most dearly is valuing one’s own mind.

Having witnessed a loved one’s comprehension and cognitive skills slowly decline, I have realized the numerous abilities of the brain that we take for granted.

We are tangled in social pressures, negative thought patterns, and regret. We lose ourselves in the ostentatious stressors of the modern world.

The mind is extremely powerful—and the stories we tell ourselves.

Just like any other complex machine, the brain will suffer wear and tear over time and need proper maintenance.

The level of love and care we apply in our lives may play a large part in dictating our longevity.

If we choose to ignore the required maintenance of our minds, stress will depreciate our brain power.

With the rise of hustle-porn-culture, we have notably higher rates of burnout and exhaustion.

The cultural messaging of “the hard grind” and “pushing beyond our bearable limit” is universally strong and certainly not the path to authentic success.

Hard work and perseverance are important, but we shouldn’t be paying for the hidden charges that deplete our mental health along the way.

The future of our collective neurological capacity is at risk.

At the end of the day, we need to remember what makes us human:

We are composed of our character, values, emotions, and energy.

It’s not always about what we say, but more so, the intention behind our actions.

As our worlds grow inevitably smaller, we are left with our loved ones, ourselves, and our inner thoughts.

When the glittering laurels and glories have faded, our minds will be with us until the end.

The kinder we are in the present, the more we will benefit in the long run.

When we become aware of our thoughts, we realize the power they hold to build or break us.

A change in perspective today could lead to a healthier and well-rounded life tomorrow.

Let’s take charge of our mental health and be the “Don” of our own lives because we never know what life’s going to throw at us along the way.


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Advithi Kumar  |  Contribution: 3,045

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