Losing my mom to Alzheimer’s happened in 2007. It was a 5 year road of gradual decline, leading to the end. Now, it’s my aunt’s turn I guess. To the family, the signs have been unmistakable for some time, but accepting it and actually bringing it up to her was just too hard. My aunt, is an independent, never married, 85 year old lady of the south who insists “there is nothing wrong with me, my memory is fine!” But the truth is, there is something very wrong. It was very difficult to reason with her why she needed to go to the doctor. ” I’m not sick, I’m fine, and I’m not going.” Nevertheless, the appointment was made and we convinced her to go.
There were 8 half gallons of milk in her refrigerator, dating back to September of 2010. 6 cartons of eggs with similar date ranges, and lots of sweets. The florescent lights in her kitchen were barely working and it was dark in there to the point that she compensated by turning on the light over the stove. Even so, she ardently tried to convince me that because one bulb of 4 was barely flickering, that there was nothing wrong with them. After replacing them She was thrilled.
Alzheimer’s disease is a curious disease for me. As heartbreaking as it was seeing my mom decline, I had a certain intellectual curiosity of the process. You read that many Alzheimer’s patients get violent to their loved ones and others. Not mom though.. never. and most importantly she knew who I was to her very last moment on earth. Towards the end when she had “bathers” come in, she had a few combative moments. But a lot of that was just her not understanding what they wanted of her and fear to do what they asked and feeling rushed. When I heard a prescription for Haldol had been called in at the request of a BATHER, I nixed it immediately.
The Alzheimer’s road I will travel with my aunt will be very different than the one I walked with my mother, I fear. She’s already aggressive but it has to do with independence. She refuses help, and is uncharacteristically adamant when it is offered. I’ve always been the designated driver ever since I was in my 20’s Now she insists that it’s her car and she is driving it. She will insist that I have never driven her car. “This is my car.. I drive it, why would you ever drive it?”
How is Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed?
The first Neurology appointment was today. Her youngest sister and myself took her. We helped her with the paperwork. We prayed that the doctor would see something amiss. The MME memory test I know well from the many visits with Mom. I was praying for the obvious to reveal itself.
After introducing herself, the Neurologist started the MME test often used for help in diagnosing and tracking the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease and I’m sure other dementia’s as well
It went something like this.
Dr “Can you tell me the date today”
Aunt ” June 7 2001″
Dr, hesitating “Do you know what day it is?”
Dr ” Now, What year is it?”
Aunt .. “I know that” she says firmly “its 2001″
Dr. ” okay, do you know what season it is?
Aunt ” it has to be summer”
Dr. ” I want you to remember these three words Apple, Car Lake, I’m going to ask you to repeat them in a minute”
Aunt ” Apple Car Lake”
Dr. “Yes. Remember those! Now, can you tell me what 100 minus 7 is? ”
Dr. ” Good!” Can you subtract 7 from that number?”
Aunt. “7 from what? ”
Dr. ” 7 from the answer from the first question” reviews the process with her.
Aunt. Can’t come up with 93 minus 7
Dr. ” okay.. Now on this piece of paper write a sentence, any sentence”
Aunt looks out window and then writes, “I”m looking out to lunch”
Dr “I’d like you to spell “world” backwards
Aunt ” d-l-r-o-w”
Dr. “Good” Holds out her pen and asks what it is.
Dr “do you remember the three words? ”
Aunt. Laughs, thinks, laughs, “no”
Dr. “Not any of them? ”
Aunt.. shakes head.
Dr. Shows her a picture of two shapes and asks her to draw them.
Aunt, executes the drawing perfectly.
The rest of the Dr’s exam is more physical in nature. Checking muscle tone, resistance, balance, coordination.
The tests are prescribed. Blood work, and a CT scan to “rule out anything treatable”
She then mentions that sometimes drugs are prescribed even for untreatable conditions. Interesting way of putting the worst case dementia scenario.
Ct Scan Is Thursday, Blood work done today. Diagnosis Appointment a week from Thursday. Am I praying they find something treatable? Oh yes! Do I think they will? Nope.
I’ll keep you posted.