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OMG: An Alzheimer's Glossary


Every other Thursday, we have Trish Vradenburg as our special guest blogger. Trish is a playwright, author, television writer, and Alzheimer's Disease advocate. She and her husband George founded UsAgainstAlzheimer's with the goal of finding a cure or treatment for Alzheimer's by the year 2020. She brings her legendary humor and wit to the devastating realities of Alzheimer's, and will be a regular guest poster here.

Sculpture: OMG LOL / Eyebeam Art + Technology Center Open Studio
See-ming Lee ��明 SML / SML

We live in a world of acronyms.  People seem to shortcut everything -- like OMG, I 4got 2 b ther.  Okay, I can figure out that sentence - Oh my God, I forgot to be there - and most sentences like that.  It is an economy of words to get to the point.  But to me, a person who is dropping brain cells left and right, this is no easy task.
Recently we started USAgainstAlzheimer's and a whole new bunch of anagrams came my way. Washington and the scientific community do this as though they are all a given.  Let me show you an example.  Here is a simple sentence:

The ADLs should be measured against the IDLs when trying to see whether the MCI is established.

Easy, right?  Okay, here at the definitions of those three acronyms so we can place everything in context:

ADL: Activities of Daily living. This includes getting in and out of bed, dressing, feeding, getting to and from the toilet and managing incontinence.

IADL: Secondary level of activities (different from ADLs such as dressing and bathing) important to daily living, such as cooking, writing and driving.

MCI: Mild Cognitive Impairment. MCI, an established risk factor for Alzheimer's Disease, is a condition in which a person has problems with memory, language or another essential cognitive ability that are severe enough to be noticeable to others and show up on a cognitive tests, but not severe enough to interfere with daily life. (Source: 2011 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures from the Alzheimer's Association .)

Okay, that last sentence in MCI's definition is only a little confusing since, to me, IDL and ADL have some words in both that sound necessary to living independently.  But MCI sounds like it is combining both ADL and IDL - and one of them is supposed to be an escalation of the other and... I can barely understand what I just wrote.

Besides, I have had some of these problems for a long time.

For instance, my cooking has gotten worse through the years, but that could be because no one in my family appreciates what I burn.

I've always had trouble getting up.  If we gauge by my lack of interest in getting out of bed, I started my MCI in first grade.

Or dressing. Dressing has always been a problem.  I never know what to put together.  As my husband fumes in the next room, I am choosing between ochre and beige shoes.  We usually can make it to a dinner by dessert.

And, okay, my driving is occasionally is a little less than accurate -- though mostly just backing up.  My husband recently got a new car from the same dealer we have used for 15 years and the advice our salesman gave my husband was, "Just don't let your wife drive it in the driveway."

And as for my memory, I've never been good at names.  Introduce me to someone and his name might as well be calpenegrpis-xpee for all I'll remember -- and that's if we have the same mother.

So I think these acronyms need to be a little more precise and less fuzzy.  The thing is I need a glossary for my glossary - though I'd never admit that to anyone.  Learning a new language when you aren't in eighth grade is a challenge.  I just wish it could all be easier.  Something like "the FBI and the CIA don't share secrets."  Now that's a couple of acronyms I can roll with.

 Photo credit: seeminglee via Flickr

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