Archive for November 3rd, 2010|Daily archive page

An ‘anniversary,’ I guess

Yesterday, I looked back four years, to Mom’s last election. Today, I quietly observed that this is the fifth anniversary of Mom’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Nov. 3, 2005. I still have the dated prescription pad pages – two of them, actually, that the doctor filled out with medicines and other recommendations now that the dementia diagnosis had been confirmed.

I took the day off of work. My sister Laura came in from California to go to the doctor’s appointment. Mom had already been through lots of testing – written and oral tests in the clinic, an MRI and nuclear medicine scan of her brain. I think Laura and I felt pretty sure about what we were going to hear. I honestly don’t know what Mom was feeling or thinking that day.

The doctor showed us the scans and talked us through the findings. In the end, he said the results pointed to a dementia that most closely resembled the Alzheimer’s form. He didn’t go into any great detail about what to expect. I think that right away, he suggested that Mom could be a good candidate for a clinical trial of the investigational use of an existing drug to see if it could benefit Alzheimer’s patients. Years later, I read a news story that indicated this drug, a diabetes medication, did not have any positive effects for dementia patients. I never knew if Mom got the drug or a placebo. Mom was later in another clinical trial that ended up being a bust, as well.

My memory of Mom’s reaction was that it was patient and quiet, like she was working just a little to absorb the news. She told the doctor she had spent many years as a heavy drinker, and asked if that caused the dementia. He said no, it was not a cause, but that the drinking probably left her with less brain to work with. She was going to get Alzheimer’s anyhow, but having an alcoholic past probably moved its development up to an earlier point in her life.

After the appointment, we visited my office, which coincidentally was right across the hall from the clinic. I don’t think we knew how to act or feel, so we put on happy faces and said hello to my co-workers. I imagine we probably went to lunch. We later called our brother to let him know of the diagnosis.

It’s weird, I remember being in the clinic room, sitting and listening to the doctor. But I don’t remember much else about the day, or my sister’s visit. I think at that time I was so full of dread of what was likely to lie ahead that I was consumed with feelings about my own future and not so much about Mom’s. I do think I realized at this point, though, that I needed to mellow out on her and be more patient with her. I’m ashamed at how long it took me to really fully grasp what she must have gone through during those early months and maybe even more than a year of being confused, having trouble finding words, losing track of her finances, being suspicious and distrustful but not knowing why, feeling withdrawn from her friends and family, maybe getting lost while driving. And who knows what else. I’m frankly glad those fears are behind her now. If it has to be that she is an Alzheimer’s patient, I am relieved that she has become the kind of patient she is: content, full of laughter and smiles, comfortable. Happy, I’d even venture to say.

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