In the last year or so, she's had trouble with conversations. Like many people -- even young adults -- she sometimes can't think of a word she wants to use.
My mother, however, instead of merely hesitating, sometimes substitutes words. She may use a general term instead of the specific -- like "fasten the apparatus" instead of "buckle the seatbelt." Or "I need a new thing for the thing" instead of "I need a new cushion for the wheelchair."
She sometimes merely substitutes a word that is the right part of speech, but makes no sense, like "produce" for "bank check" and "poster" for something I never figured out.
Other times -- actually pretty often -- her conversations are perfectly normal.
When she was younger, she read three or four books a week. She recently stopped reading. When she was in high school, she won an award for penmanship. Now she has trouble writing a check.
Although I am "just" 66 years old, I've lately been worried that I might develop my mother's condition.
I never learned how to type the "real" way, but about five years ago I degenerated from being the world’s fastest six-finger typist to a pretty-good two-finger typist. (I actually have ten fingers but I’ve never used them all for typing.)
Now I'm a terrible two-finger typist. I produce a lot of typos -- often pressing an adjacent key, like "v" instead of "c." I frequently hold down the shift key as I press the key to insert an apostrophe, and end up inserting a colon. I often type “i nthe” and “fro ma.” I now tap the Caps Lock key a lot by accident, the semicolon instead of the apostrophe, and the “Page Down” key instead of “delete.” I seldom produce an error-free sentence. [The first time I typed that sentence, I typed "arror," and then I corrected it to "errror."]
A more recent -- and much scarier -- sign of degeneration is that I sometimes substitute words at the keyboard, usually with the same initial letter, like "party" for "path." Sometimes I use the wrong letter sequence, like "nad," "hsould" or "writign."
TRhis is an uncorrected sample of my typign. Anr here is another sample senterncer, and some moer. Today is Sunday and I'll havelots of newsapers to read. I wnatto spend some time writing, readign and editing books, too; and neeed to vacuum the algae for mthe botto mof the pool.
This is really scary. Is it an early sign of dementia? Is part of my brain DEAD? Tomorrow I'm going to call my neurologist and maybe an occupational therapist.
(above) Aging Baby Boomer’s Low-Tech Secret Weapon: If you remove the Caps Lock key, you can’t tap it accidentally.