When an English major turned neurosurgeon quotes from The Waste Land liberally and with comprehension (The Waste Land, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, and The Hollow Men are my three favorite T. S. Eliot poems, with The Hollow Men being the closest to my soul) and I see my own connection that seeks deeper understanding that has grown from literature (mind) to neuroscience (the brain), I am immediately drawn more intimately into his story. Continue reading
Dr. Brawley does an excellent job of showing how American medicine, with profit as the bottom line (propped up by insurance companies, Big Pharma, and often-faulty research that is manipulated to making fear the driving factor for patients), does more harm than good in most cases under the pretense of providing “health” care. Continue reading
In my profile of William Shakespeare’s character, King Lear, from the play of the same name, it was clear that Lear was suffering from dementia and, most probably, Lewy Body dementia.
So I thought I’d share my review of The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606 by James Shapiro to get a wider perspective on the year that saw Shakespeare give a title character in one of his plays many of the behaviors and symptoms of advanced cognitive impairment and Lewy Body dementia.
This book explores how the world around Shakespeare (beginning with the Gunpowder Plot on November 5, 1605 – now commemorated annually in England as “Guy Fawkes’ Day” – which had deep political and religious roots) during the early part of the reign of King James I, with an especially tumultuous year in 1606, influenced his writing that year.
Much of what was going on politically, socially, and emotionally in England at the time is reflected in the lines of King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra, all of which are among Shakespeare’s tragedy plays and all of which Shakespeare wrote in 1606.
The Gunpowder Plot in late 1605 triggered much of the political and religious climate that overshadowed 1606. The plot, engineered by English Catholics who feared greater persecution – they got it – and more “do-or-die” pressure to abandon their Catholicism – a prescient fear even they didn’t realize the extent or depths of of James I – underscored the continued intense subterranean battle between England’s Catholics and Protestants.
While the plot was thwarted by the usual treachery and intrigue (it would have obliterated much of the heart of London government – buildings and people – and would have significantly changed the overall physical landscape of London), James I – as King of Scotland first, he was viewed as an interloper by much of the English population – reacted ferociously with a wide net that touched every English citizen, including Shakespeare, determined to have his will – the union of Scotland and England under one umbrella – no matter what he had to do to make it happen.
It seems James I did everything he could to alienate his English subjects, including moving, by disinterring, the graves of the royals in Westminster Abbey.
Most notably, he disinterred Elizabeth I and buried her on top of Mary I (“Bloody Mary,” the religiously-fanatical daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, whose main accomplishment on the throne was a religious pogrom against Protestants, of whom Elizabeth I was one), then moved his mother, Mary, Queen of Scots (one of Elizabeth’s staunchest rivals for the English throne), into Elizabeth’s grave and giving her a greater position of status in the cemetery.
Shakespeare, who lived in the heart of London most of the year, had a front row seat to all of this as part of the King’s Men, who were patronized by the crown, as they had been during Elizabeth I’s reign.
1606 was a year of fear (the plague hit London particularly hard during 1606, adding to the political and religious fear that was rampant in the city) and division (political and religious) and nostalgia (although by the end of her long reign the English believed Elizabeth I’s rule had become stagnant, the actions of James I made them long for her “good old days”) that punctuated the year.
I highly recommend this book even for people who may not know or really appreciate the incredible talent and acute, heart-of-the-matter insight that Shakespeare brought as a writer to his plays. Perhaps it will be a catalyst to go and read at least these three plays through the eyes of 1606.
As I write for Going Gentle Into That Good Night, I don’t just think in a confined space of caregiving for our loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease.
That’s important – and the focus of most of the posts here – and the information I provide is practical and addresses daily life for us as caregivers and our loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease.
I work constantly with the goal of providing what caregivers need in one place and where they will not find anywhere else.
The two books I’ve written for caregivers about dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease – Going Gentle Into That Good Night: A Practical and Informative Guide For Fulfilling the Circle of Life For Our Loved Ones with Dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease and You Oughta Know: Acknowledging, Recognizing, and Responding to the Steps in the Journey Through Dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease – are written with the same goal.
I was the caregiver for my mom who had vascular dementia, Lewy Body dementia, and Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as congestive heart failure. Someone gave me a copy of the bible on these diseases – The 36-Hour Day – and not only was it written by clinicians who had never actually been through the day-to-day with these diseases, but it didn’t address the very specific things I was seeing with my mom and it didn’t address the in-the-moment things and challenges of daily life that we as caregivers and our loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease face and need to navigate through.
These people that we love and loved fiercely were treated at worst as mindless, inanimate objects and at best as newborn babies who needed to be stripped of all control and input into their lives.
So after my mom’s death in 2012, I decided to do my best to give caregivers what I didn’t and couldn’t find, doing the research, drawing on experience, staying abreast of these neurological diseases and providing what has been the only – and still is – comprehensive resource for caregivers of loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease that wasn’t just specific to my mom and didn’t focus on just a single aspect of the breadth and width and length of what caregiving and being cared for entails.
Make no mistake, though. My mom is a part of many of my posts because that’s where I got the practical experience, but except for my very personal posts on those days when missing her comes on me full force again, my mom is not the focus of this blog.
You the caregivers and your loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease are. That is why I continue to take the experiences that you talk with me about and I continue to add to the resources here.
My work here will never be done. That is my commitment and my promise to each of you and to your loved ones.
One of the things that has become evident over the past few years is that our lifestyles – yours and mine – potentially make most of humanity headed for dementia because we’re creating a fertile environment for neurological degeneration.
One of the lifestyle factors that poses, in my opinion, the most significant risk of neurological degeneration to the most people is our increasing addiction to technology.
The research in neuroscience backs this up. We have too little absence in our lives from technology.
Technology changes our neuroplasticity (the part of the brain responsible for creating neural pathways) and, as a result, there are parts of our brains that are getting short-circuited and bypassed altogether. This leads to cellular atrophy and, eventually, death – the hallmark indicators of dementia. Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows is an excellent book on how this happens.
My Goodreads book review of A Deadly Wandering: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention:
“Excellent book that weaves an actual story of the unconscious attention deficit created by using technology (in this case, texting, but it applies to all technology) while driving a vehicle with the neuroscience behind the human ability to pay attention (stay focused) with multiple, seemingly-equal, stimuli coming at them all at once (multitasking).
The reality is that multitasking, for 99% of us, is a myth we’ve bought into and it’s making us more unable to pay attention to anything for long (there’s a dopamine hit that mimics the same hit that drug and alcohol addicts get with that first snort, draw, liquid ice in the veins or drink – the hit is short-lived, but we’re hooked and we first want it and then we need it), more unproductive, more unconscious in terms of critically thinking and keeping the big picture in focus, and more of a danger, in some cases, fatally so, to ourselves and others.
Everyone should read this book. It’s a tough read at times, both in terms of the pain and suffering revealed in all the people discussed in the book and in terms of the fact that when we look in the mirror, we’re most likely going to see the “bad guy” in this book with our faces looking back at us.
It’s a cautionary tale that we all need to take to heart and do something about TODAY.”