When there is a rock in our path, we can stumble over it or use it as a stepping stone.

Monday, July 25, 2011

losing math skills


Having lived with an early onset dementia diagnosis for over a decade now, I have learned to accept most of the changes the disease has brought to my life.   If you had asked me two decades ago, what would have been the hardest for me to accept, I would have thought it would have been the loss of independence from no longer being able to drive.    The truth though is it is the ongoing loss of my math ability that is hardest for me to come to grips with.

Yesterday I wrote about learning about cognitive reserve and suspecting that perhaps my life long love of reading has given me some protection against the dementia.   I have lost some of my verbal ability but I do know from neurologists' reactions, that given the amount of brain damage my scans show, I am still doing amazingly well verbally.  

Math, however, has never been my strong point so I apparently don't have much reserve in that area and because of it I have had to face the shock of learning this past year that I am no longer capable of doing any type of complex long division.    I can still handle simple problems such as 99 / 3, but I became very frustrated with myself once day when I sat down with pen and paper to try to do long division that involved carrying numbers over.   I just could not make sense of the steps in the process.

I have been happy with the fact that at least I could still do simple addition and subtraction in my head and remembered my multiplication tables.   Yesterday I was brought up short again when I faced the problem of trying to figure out if I can do something 9 times in one day, how many days will it take me to do it 45 times.     I ended up having to pull up my online calculator to figure that one out.   This is a sign of further erosion of my math skills, and I don't like it one bit.

Many who know me only online in such ways as on Second Life, have no idea that I am a dementia paper as other than having problems with word substitution (which folks usually write off as my just making a typo), my verbal abilities are still so high.   Thus they become confused when the topics of things like word puzzles that involve math come up as they don't understand why I can't understand (no matter how much they try to explain it to me) something they consider so simple.   I dread situations like that as when they happen, the person figures out there is something "wrong" with me and it impacts our future interactions.

I do proofread my posts but I left the typo in the last paragraph on purpose as it is a perfect example of the type of word substitution error that I commonly make - in this case, typing "paper" when I meant "patient."    In my next post, I will write more about the types of word errors that have become very common for me over the past decade.

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