Actor John Barrymore once wrote, “Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.” Sometimes, however, doors can cause less pleasant results. According to both Professor Gabriel Radvansky and an article in the QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY, doors and doorways can separate episodes of activity and cause confusion and forgetfulness.
What this means is that all of us, whether we have mostly clear thoughts or worry that we might be next to suffer with Alzheimer’s or dementia, probably find ourselves forgetting things.
For instance, have you ever hurried out the door in the morning, and suddenly you can’t remember the two things on your “to do” list you planned to take care of on your way to work? Or do you sometimes walk from one room to another to get something, and once you get there you’ve forgotten what it is?
There are several studies on event boundaries, but here’s my favorite solution to this kind of forgetfulness problem: go back through the door to the place you were when you made the plan about what to do or to get. Stop, take a breath, and when you recall the detail, repeat it to yourself, and then walk back through the door and go on your way. Do this with a sense of humor, not an exaggerated sense of dread that you might be losing your memory.
I did not know of memory event boundaries when my dad was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, but I realize now that it was one of his coping skills. Sometimes he would walk out of his office to put on his hat and go somewhere, then suddenly stop. He’d look away, hesitant, and then he’d go back into his office. This might have been to escape the embarrassment of forgetting, but often after a brief pause, he would walk back out of his office again, smiling and ready to do what he’d planned. By going back through the doorway, he had remembered what he wanted to do.
If you haven’t visited www.fatbottomfiftiesgetfierce.com yet, I suggest you treat yourself to a terrific blog. One humorous post is about “Quinbloits”—things that only someone over 50 will understand. My favorite Quinbloit is this: ROOMEMBER: to find yourself standing in the middle of a room trying to remember what you went in there to get. There you have it: if you suffer from a ROOMEMBER, now you know to leave the room to help yourself remember.
As the daughter of a father who died of Alzheimer’s and a mother who suffers with severe dementia, I would never make light of any aspect of forgetfulness or memory loss. But I also don’t want to cause undue worries by dwelling on natural lapses of memory. As my primary care physician explained to me, finding your keys where you left them in the refrigerator doesn’t mean you should worry you have Alzheimer’s. But if you find your keys in the refrigerator and don’t know what they are or what to do with them, then we need to talk.