Unquenchable Optimism Helps 48-Year-Old Cope with Early-Onset Dementia Stealing Her Memory

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For most people, a dementia diagnosis comes as a real blow, a shocking tragedy, the beginning of the end. But for Claire, it’s almost something to be excited about. If you live with as much optimism as she does, nothing can really get you down.

Claire knew there was a problem when she kept buying green tea that she thought she needed but had already bought, and when she picked up a book she thought she’d never read, only to find her own notes in the margins. Formerly a prolific traveler and a senior editor for a travel magazine, she dealt with symptoms like these, as well as severe exhaustion, for years before she finally started seeing specialists in the hopes of finding the problem. Eventually, she went to see a neurologist, and what they found after multiple tests was shocking: dementia.

Claire is just 48 years old, so her dementia is considered to be the early-onset type. It will likely cut her life expectancy short, taking her memory and her life within just a few short years. But it hasn’t taken Claire long to get over that reality and move on to thinking about the benefits of her new life.

Medication is currently helping Claire maintain her memory and brain function, but doctors expect the benefits will only last about six more months before the effects of the disease become painfully apparent again. Therefore, Claire has made the decision to move into an assisted living facility while she is still of sound mind and can begin to get acclimated to her new surroundings instead of being “jerked” into this new reality later, when changes are more difficult for her to deal with.

The Boise resident is looking forward to meeting her new neighbors and taking up new hobbies like rollerblading. She’s also excited to live a life where there’s always someone checking in on her so that she doesn’t need to worry so much about how her memory loss will impact her day-to-day life. Her needs will always be taken care of, no matter what stage of the disease she’s in.

“It’s important to be someplace where you can be safe,” Claire says.

Claire has also found other benefits to dementia as she starts down this difficult path. For example, she has a hard time remembering things she’s heard and seen recently, so everything seems new again and nothing gets boring. “TV is so much fun these days,” she says, laughing, “because I don’t remember anything that I’ve watched for like the last five years. So I can watch anything again and be like, ‘Oh, what’s the ending? I have no idea.'”

Check out the video below to see how Claire’s undying optimism has contributed to her happiness and healthy choices as she copes with her early-onset dementia. May we all learn a thing or two from her uncanny ability to look on the bright side of things!

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Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?
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