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A Faint Drumbeat in the Background

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Reading the Modern Love essay in the New York Times Style section has become a favorite Sunday pastime. A widely diverse set of stories explore the paths that love and relationships have taken over the years. Funny, sad, deeply personal and evocative. I find myself connecting with the writers and their subjects in unexpected ways. This week's essay, Sweetest at the End, shared the story of a beloved and accomplished husband's decline and then death from an atrophy of the frontal brain lobe.

This story was similar to the experiences of Alzheimer's caregivers sharing the challenges of living and caring for a dear loved one who is fading away in mind while the body seems to have hit a pause button.  But for one important detail the thing that struck me and has stayed with me even into the start of a busy new work week the age of the writer's husband, 57.  I, too, am 57.

There is much about my fifties that has been rich with work, family and love but there is also a growing sense of time's passing and more than the occasional wondering about what lies ahead. In an odd sort of way, I catch myself reading more health news stories about the early signs of dementia, long term care options, and staving off decline and weight gain in middle age by increasing physical activity'almost as if I am assembling a What to Expect When You Are Expecting guide for sailing into old age.

The news and science seem mostly hopeful. We can live longer and be more active than ever before. And there is much I can do even now to increase my chances of good health of mind and body. But I wonder if I can marshal the discipline and resolve that came so easy when 32 years ago, I gave up caffeine and alcohol for nine months.  Why did it seem so much easier then to protect my unborn child than it is now to change behaviors and make preventive health choices to protect myself --and increase my chances of a healthier old age?

More Blog Posts by Dorothy Jeffress

author bio

Dorothy Jeffress, MBA, MSW, MA, (djeffress@cfah.org) executive director, joined CFAH in March 2008. Prior positions include vice president, Center for Information Therapy, 2005-2008, where she assisted with the IxAction Alliance membership program, the annual Ix Conference and finance/administration for the IxCenter; and as the assistant vice president of Value Based Purchasing for the National Business Coalition on Health (NBCH) from 2003 to 2005, where she directed the eValue8 Request for Information (RFI) program. She also worked with NCQA from 1999 to 2002 where she was the director of constituent relations and a senior health care analyst in HEDIS performance measure development. She has also worked for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health as the director of a CDC/state-funded women's health promotion and chronic disease prevention program. She has managed a TPA for self-funded employee benefit programs and also been a benefit manager for a mid-sized employer. Dorothy has an MBA from Clemson University and an MSW in clinical social work and an MA in theology from Boston College.


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Lifestyle and Prevention   Aging Well   Dorothy Jeffress   Get Preventive Health Care  


Comments on this post
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quick and easy weight loss says
April 23, 2010 at 11:05 PM

you cannot. even in death somone will usually remember you one day and criticize you. you cannot please everybody, so don't even try.

Jon says
April 29, 2010 at 8:22 AM

It's very sad to watch someone you care for slowly deteriorate with Alzheimerâ??s. It's probably more distressing for the carer than the victim. Why is it difficult to change behavior as far as preventative health is concerned? Even is you change your behavior there is no guarantee you will live longer and opinion seems to swing with the tide as to what is actually good or bad for you. Lastly if you make any changes, will it make you any happier in your remaining life?