My mother has dementia. But she's 94 so I figure she has a right to forget some things, especially that my father died four years ago when he was 94, but with most of his wonderful memory intact. All of us who have aging parents watch them stumble over a word, a name, and sometimes even more serious, forget where they are and where they've been. It's painful to watch that, and even more painful to contemplate, "Is this going to happen to me, too?"
That's where Google comes in. Google is my memory bank now. When I wanted to remember the name of a terrific movie I just saw a few days ago with Vanessa Redgrave about a bunch of bitter old people in an Irish residential care home who finally get together and help each other -- How About You? -- I just googled Vanessa Redgrave and there it was!
And when the commentators on the White House Correspondents Dinner were all gaga over this guy named Bradley Cooper, I went to Google and Wikipedia and found out that I was certainly not the right demographic to have known who he was, because he starred in The Hangover, not a movie I probably would have seen!
At least half a dozen times a day, I go to Google to remind me of something I have forgotten or to look up something I want to know more about. Okay, this is not a commercial for Google, because other search engines like Yahoo search or Bing are equally useful. In fact, it's hard to remember what life was like before these search engines. Instead of walking around the house muttering, "Now what was the name of that book I was going to order?" or "What's the name of that TV show I want to Tivo?" -- I can simply sit down at my laptop and search for it.
The point here is that with iPhones and other wireless devices, you need never search again for a word or memory that can be stored electronically somewhere. Your iPhone will probably not help you remember the name of a distant cousin who is not in your address book, or a birthday you haven't noted down, although... with Facebook and MySpace and White Pages, I'm always surprised at who I can find at a moment's notice.
Still, I worry about my memory and wonder if there is something I should be doing to stave off any dementia that might be in my distant future. Sadly, apparently there is nothing. Just last week a National Institute of Health expert panel looked at all the various treatments that might stop or delay Alzheimer's and found this:
Panel Says Nothing Stops Alzheimer's
A literature review by an independent panel brought together by the NIH determined that the causes of Alzheimer's disease are still unknown and that no reliable evidence has shown that anything can prevent the disease or stop its progress.
"There are no modifiable issues or variables that are going to prevent Alzheimer's or cognitive decline, and people should know that," Carl Bell, MD, professor of psychiatry at the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a panel member, told reporters during a Wednesday afternoon press call.
The panel -- made up of experts in psychiatry, gerontology, genetics, nutrition, drugs, neurology, and oncology -- released its report, "Preventing Alzheimer's Disease and Cognitive Decline," on Wednesday.
"There is currently no evidence considered to be of even moderate scientific quality supporting the association of any modifiable factor (nutritional supplements, herbal preparations, dietary factors, prescription or nonprescription drugs, social or economic factors, medical conditions, toxins, environmental exposures) with reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease," the report authors said.
So while we wrestle with our short term memory loss, science is not going to be helping us any time soon. But thank Google! It will.