Alzheimer's: Losing Our Minds', or Just the Connections?by Posted Author on 08/27/12
By G. F. Smith
(Original Publish Date:
This post has a more personal and sensitive facet to it, more so than all the others. It has to do with my Mom...and the disease known as Alzheimer's.
Briefly, my mother has, for many years now, chosen to live in a retirement community in southern
She's been happy there for many decades, even after her husband--my stepfather--passed on some time ago. Due to my own circumstances I'd only travel down there every couple years or so to see her. Phone calls were our means of communication and sharing. She never liked technology much; her TV was the extent of that--she never even wanted a VCR, much less a DVD Player, and especially not a computer and email.
No amount of asking, encouraging, or begging to return to her home state ever proved fruitful. She was adamant when it came to staying where she was--it was her home, she'd always say. She lived in a small, albeit very nice, mobile home in a quaint, park-like setting. Although nearly 83 years of age she still drove and shopped and took care of her own needs. Though she kept to herself--as she'd always done--she had great neighbors and some good friends she'd talk with often.
Whenever we'd talk, or whenever the other relatives up here would talk with her, she'd relate that she was doing fine, enjoying her days. She rarely complained--only an "I don't feel so good some days," always followed with, "but I'm fine...just getting old."
I recently returned from
Thank God, and God bless her neighbors and the people who finally noticed what was happening. As it turned out, my Mom was living in squalor. Completely the opposite of what she'd related. I will not go into details. That's not the point of this post.
My Mother is now being taken care of in a wonderful nursing home by a team of highly professional and highly wonderful people. The reason: My Mom has Alzheimer's.
What is a Mind...with Alzheimer's?
As I posted in another recent Blog entry, "We know what we know, and are what we are, because of the memes handed down to us from the past." (You might find the post interesting reading.)
We are our memories--these are how memes are stored. Simply, we are the culmination of our experiences; we are the information fed to us by our senses, and recorded in our little computer brains.
Alzheimer's short circuits all that. That's what happened to my Mom.
Simply, the cause of Alzheimer's is a plaque-like substance (on a molecular scale) which coats and consequently disrupts the transference of electrical signals that the trillions of neurons in our brains use to connect and therefore communicate with each other. When this happens, memory becomes clouded as if a blinding fog settles in the mind, and the once-easily-conferred relationships and associations that create and perpetuate our memories--and therefore who we are--progressively deteriorates and become no more. In other words, we forget what we know, and eventually, who we are.
So, what constitutes a person...just our memories?
In accordance with the physics of all this, some brains--those of geniuses for instance--have connections and associations that are far more capable than all the super-computers in the world combined. On the other end of the scale, some brains can barely function above the involuntary level--scarcely keeping the organs functioning. All of us--whether we have Alzheimer's, or something else--exist somewhere within this spectrum.
Are we more than just our memories? I'd like to think so. I do...think so. Let me apply an analogy:
What if we--as individuals--are like desktop computers? Inherent to our design we enjoy a certain level or power, capacity, memory: random access and hard drive--short-term and long-term memory. We have operating systems, and operating speeds, and a certain capability for internal as well as external cross-functionality and multi-tasking.
Hence, we can download and upload information. Information that adds to who we are, as well as information that we can share, of which adds to others. And, if we are technologically advanced enough, and if we choose, we can intermix with all those other entities out there in the cyber-world through the internet (human interaction). That is if we haven't broken down yet and lose the will, or the knowledge of just how to do it.
Weird things happen when we start to break down. We can lose those ever-identifying associations and connections. As a result, we may disregard health, safety, environment--even friends and family. We may completely forget who we are, where we are, and where we were going. We may lose our humanity, as well as our faith.
Is this all there is, though? I mean, really...?
Personally, I don't think so! I believe our primary selves--our cores--dwell somewhere other than just within our little chemical, biological brains. Our brains run on electricity. Electricity is energy. Energy, science tells us, is forever. I think when we were born we just donned a bio-mechanical suit (body). And when something like Alzheimer's hits, it's merely a malfunction in the circuitry, a temporary loss of connections, somewhere up there in the operating system (brain).
The reality--the essence--of who we are is still there. The windows may have been temporarily shaded, the doors closed, the connections fogged, or perhaps even severed. But, the energy--the entity--the Spirit--is still there. This is truly what we are.
Someday, we'll make the connection...
I love you Mom!
G. F. Smith