I had already taken Mom to see her general practitioner, but after six months of uncertainty and confusion about her behavior, it was time to see a neurologist. I needed a specialist to tell me what was going on with Mom’s brain. I chose a doctor affiliated with a very good local hospital and his office sent me a 5 or 6 page questionnaire to fill out about Mom’s health and behavior.
Telling Mom we were going to see a doctor when she wasn’t feeling sick was not easy for me. How was I supposed to do that? I dropped it in to my conversation with her about driving to a beautiful mall and having lunch out in a really good restaurant. Very awkward, but she didn’t argue.
We arrived at the doctor’s office and I was holding on tightly to the questionnaire with the notes about Mom. We were ushered in and seated in an office with a huge, beautiful, mahogany desk. The doctor came in and introduced himself, took the pages from me and spread them over the top of his desk. I will never forget what he did next.
As he was surveying my answers, he looked up at me and right in front of Mom said, “I see here that you don’t think your mother can balance her checkbook any longer.”
I felt my face getting red and hot. I looked over at Mom and with her arms crossed over her chest, she looked at me and said, “Oh really?? I’ll bet I can balance it better than you can!”
So much for seeing a professional. I was furious. I was embarrassed. I felt horrible for my Mom and for what had just happened. He gave her an MMSE or “mini-mental” exam, which tests certain cognitive abilities, and told us that Mom may be on the way to developing Alzheimer’s disease. His diagnosis was MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment) and he sent us home with a ten-day pill pack of Aricept and an order for a brain scan.
The ride down in the elevator to the parking lot was torture for me. I thought I’d done irreparable damage to our wonderful mother-daughter relationship. Then, Mom said the most surprising thing. “Where are we having lunch?” Amazing. I was nauseous from what had transpired but she had no obvious recollection of anything said in that doctor’s office. Thank heaven for small or large favors.
Suggestion: Even people with very early symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can have a profound inability to hold on to new memory. Some experiences are worse for the caregiver and taking your loved one to a specialist can seem like a task to be avoided. It is actually very important. It helps to clarify the situation and hopefully will prompt the beginning of planning for the future.