The Great Equalizer

December 3, 2013

An article today in the Huffington Post highlighted what I have seen for some time in our home care business where we often deal with people who suffer from dementia.

This disease is a great equalizer.  In my earlier days, I went to business school, worked on Wall Street and then moved on to high tech start ups.  I enjoyed the intellectual challenges of the jobs but, as for many people, the opportunity to get rich was always part of the excitement.  Especially in the cutting edge world of high tech, it seems as though anything is possible.  If you can sell your start up to a big company, you become a rock star, a super hero, the kind of person other entrepreneurs salute and idolize.

The cruelty of dementia is that in the long run, none of this matters.  We see former corporate CEOs unable to use the toilet, confused about which garment goes on first (pants or underwear?) and asking every 2 minutes, “What time is it?”

Dementia does not care if you are rich or poor, if you were famous or a nobody.  If anything, there is some evidence to suggest that people who burn the candle at both ends raise their risk of incurring the disease.  There are no cures for dementia, but there are things we can do to significantly lower our risk of incurring it.   These include good sleep, nutrition and exercise.

None of this suggests we should not work hard, achieve and — why not?—try to get rich.  It is good to keep in mind, however, that these are seldom what will matter in the long run.

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