Life with Mom
—-This is a story of a shared life with Mom after her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease.—
I took Mom to see Alice, the Nurse Practitioner at the Neurology office for her six-month check-up yesterday. Mom and I talked about her appointment last week. I told her that we didn’t even need to go if she didn’t want to. Just like her past appointments, Alice was going to test her cognition, and I was going to answer a series of questions pertaining to her every-day living skills. I knew not much, if anything had changed, and wondered if the testing nature of the appointment was upsetting to Mom. She said no, let’s go. So we did. And just seeing Alice with her truthful and upbeat nature is always a shot in the arm for both of us.
One of the questions that is often asked for cognitive testing is who is our Vice President. On the way to the appointment, Mom said she was reading the newspaper that the morning and came across an article about Joe Biden’s son. Mom said when she finished reading the article, she thought a little divine intervention was at play because she may be asked to come up with his name today. She was now prepared.
Alice came into the room in her usual jolly way and began with a little small talk, asking how things were going. We reported about Mom’s hip fracture earlier this year, and then about her hike up the little mountain a few months later. I threw in that Mom had a spinal block and not anesthesia, knowing that Alice would be very happy to hear that. She explained that having anesthesia for someone who has Alzheimer’s is like giving them a concussion, and is difficult and sometimes impossible to escape some kind of permanent adverse cognitive result.
She began the testing on Mom while I filled out my questioner, first asking her to remember 3 words that she will ask Mom to repeat at the end of the session: Orange, Dog, and Fence. Remembering these words can be difficult for someone who needs to concentrate on the rest of the exam, but when asked at the end, Mom aced it along with most of the rest of the test. She still can’t draw those fancy boxes.
Alice beamed with delight saying that there’s been no measurable change. I recalled at our last appointment that she said some people can remain at the mild stage for 10 years. Mom was formally diagnosed a little over a year ago, but we all know that when someone goes for an evaluation, the problem has been present for a while. So I estimate that she has been at this stage for a few years, and we hope for many more. The fact that she is not progressing is encouraging.
On the way home, Mom told me that she remembered the 3 words because she made an association with them. She said to herself “the orange dog climbed the fence.” This strategy worked like a charm, but I think on some level she thought she was cheating. I emphasized that if she had advanced cognitive issues, she would have never been successful using this method.
We have another appointment in 6 months. If we think nothing has changed, we may still keep the appointment just to see Alice’s smiling and reassuring face.