In this time of Trump, it seems almost indulgent to worry about personal fears of unverifiable things, but we can't let Trump be our only source of misery now can we?
My paternal grandmother had a particularly nasty descent into Alzheimer's disease about 10 years before her death. The signs started earlier, but she had a long bitter spiral downward. One of her only great joys was birdwatching, and about eight years before her death she couldn't remember the name of any but the most common birds. In the last five she couldn't recognize any of us, except me. And even then she wasn't recognizing me, I just looked exactly like my father did at 20.
My maternal grandfather had a more gentle descent into Alzheimer's disease. He had a kinder life than my grandmother, so I think reverting to it wasn't as painful. He would still tell vivid stories about his youth, but then suddenly look shocked to realize that my mother was older than 15. He was one of those men who knew all the connections between everyone in town. When we moved him to a care facility near my parents he knew everyone in the community within a week. But by two years later he couldn't remember by mom's name.
The currently known genetic markers for Alzheimer's only predict a fraction of the cases, and don't appear in my family.
The longitudinal Nun study has two fairly strong findings. First, that idea density in the nuns' writing was highly correlated with Alzheimer's--the more idea-dense your writings were the less likely you were to show up with Alzheimer's late in life. Heaven knows I'm idea dense (quality not vouched for) so hooray!
But it also suggests that for those who eventually showed up with Alzheimer's, the signs of declining ability showed up MUCH earlier than previously thought. Their writing got simpler as early as their 40s and 50s. So Alzheimer's appears to be a longer descent then originally thought. It turns out that a lot of what we think of as age related forgetfulness really isn't normal. It is the large minority of people who have Alzheimer's slowly drifting into it.
As recently as ten years ago, I can look back at my writing as see that I could fairly easily hold up three or four ideas simultaneously. I could compare and contrast them in my head and then reduce it to paper. I could quickly knock out a piece as long as ten or twelve pages because I could easily maintain mental control of the two or three concepts I wanted to play with. Similarly, I could fairly easily read 30-40 comments on an interesting piece and then respond to 3 or 4 different strains of thought--usually keeping them separated (with occasional slip ups).
Now, only in my early 40s, I have SERIOUS trouble holding onto more than one thought at a time, and sometimes trouble even finishing a thought if it has more than one or two moving parts. I regularly have to reread what I write to remember where I was going with it. I often forget names of people or things that I have known a very long time. I have trouble following a thread and end up rereading it time and time again to respond to people (this sentence is an interesting example, I knew I had another parallel but I had to reread the draft post to remember that the parallel was about responding to a comments thread--it would have been trivial to bang out the parallels from memory as recently as 5 years ago).
I'm a very mind oriented person--nearly all the joy I have comes from reading or discussing ideas or crap I seriously had a third example... oh that's right, solving puzzles. And because of the way being gay as played out in my life I don't have as close a family as I might want to lean on for that. So Alzheimer's is serious personal fear. I hope I'm wrong.
This is a personal fears thread. Though they don't have to be your most serious ones. ;)