Tag Archives: Family

Our Meeting with Dr Brain

It was a week ago that I told my mom that I had set up an appointment to see a neurologist, and how’d that go? Not so well.

Today, which is Monday, is my mom’s day to stay with the kids, but it was also the day of the appointment. I didn’t say anything when she first showed up, but left her and Aitch to do their thing and ran some errands (I’m normally at work, but had the day off). While gone, I psyched myself up to remind her. When I finally did, while she didn’t want to, she said, “If it will make YOU happy…” No, it wasn’t going to make me happy because I knew what it meant.

When Dr. Brain introduced himself and asked why she was there, she shrugged, mute. I then had to explain that there has been some memory lapses and that she repeats herself in her story-telling and questions. I felt like an ass; like I was somehow throwing my mom under the bus or at the least, complaining about her. I tried to explain that we were there to see if was indeed the normal progression of aging or if it was something else we should be aware of.

He then went into a series of questions that I initially thought were rudimentary in nature:

What is today’s date? The 11th. (It’s the 19th, and we had just signed at least four pages of paperwork that required both her signature and today’s date.)

What year is it? 1980. No, that’s not right. *long pause* I don’t know.

Who is the President? Kennedy! (answered almost too quickly and too enthusiastically) Wait, no…. *another long pause* I don’t know.

How many grandchildren do you have? 10. (she has 11)

There were several others including some simple calculations and where she lived. She struggled with the math problems (What is 100 minus seven?), but was able to answer what city, county, state and country she was in. He also had her draw something similar to a Venn diagram, but instead of circles, she was supposed to do hexagons, which were already drawn on the paper. He then asked her to write a sentence at the bottom of the page. She wrote: “Right [sic] a sentence on the bottom.” At least he laughed at that, but he did make her write an original sentence.

Afterwards, he took several seconds to review his notes, including several hash marks he had made in the margins. Her score was 23 out of 30, which he explained as he presented his opinion: beginnings of dementia, which usually means Alzheimer’s. He explained his scoring system and that he’s going to put her on a new medication. He told us what I had already known about the meds and that is they don’t make things better; they just help to keep things from getting significantly worse too soon.

In a year he will test her again (but yes, we will be following up with him much sooner). In a year, her score should be the same if she takes her meds regularly. Without the meds? She might only score a 19, maybe a 20, at the annual exam.

I could tell as I watched my mom’s expression while he described his findings and the medication that she was upset. Her face flushed and for a split second, she even teared up, but my mom, who is quite stoic, quickly reigned it all back in. Dr. Brain noticed it, too, and went on to explain that we were there to help make sure she stays as independent as she is now. She’s able to cook, clean, drive and basically look after herself and make choices for herself. The medication could potentially give her four more additional years before nursing home care may be required.

Dr. Brain was efficient and frank in his examination and delivery of his news, and yet he was still compassionate. It was hard to hear and I can’t imagine what it is was like to be in my mom’s shoes. She’s seen so many of her friends go down this path and never come back. Understandably, she was in a very subdued mood after the appointment and it was soon that she had to leave to head home. For me, I am also feeling deflated. Four years, even under the best of circumstances, is such a short time. My children will be building memories; my mother will lose them.

Head Games

I’m sitting here at the kitchen counter with my laptop in front of me, Aitch is next to me eating MY pizza, and a glass of wine (I’m drinking the wine). And before you start thinking how fancy we are, the pizza WAS frozen.

Also in front of me is the paperwork I was going to go over with my mom. It’s the pre-registration packet for her neurology appointment next Monday. We, the family, know its Alzheimer’s, but I guess we think there’s a magic answer to our frustrations by taking her and getting that confirmation. Grandma came up yesterday so she could go to Doodicus’s Winter School Concert and then spend the night to avoid making two trips (she drives 20 miles one way to be here each Monday). We are getting more and more concerned about her in the house alone with Aitch. She “forgets” to feed her lunch or if she took a nap.

When she’s not here, she’s often waiting for my brother to show up on the farm and help her with something, except she can’t remember what it is she asked him to stop over for. She received a rather substantial refund from an insurance policy a few months ago, and after my dad followed up on it, he found it hadn’t been deposited. When he asked her about it, she had no idea what he was talking about and then became upset when HE became upset about her forgetting.

If you have personally experienced someone with Alzheimer’s then you know when they get agitated, the symptoms get worse. Well, it hasn’t been JUST the missing check, but a litany of topics that get brought up by my dad who tends to be a bit of an asshole. This past year has NOT been a good one for my mom.

So I finally decided to make an appointment for my mom to see a neurologist. She needs medication to help stabilize her moods while the disease progresses. But I wasn’t sure how to tell her she had the appointment. While a year ago she was wondering what was wrong with her and why she was forgetting more and more things, she is now at the point where she doesn’t realize there is a problem. When I finally steeled my nerves to tell her and go over the paperwork, it didn’t go quite as well as I had planned.

“I made an appointment with Dr. Braindude next Monday.”

“What for?”

“Uh…well… you know how you said you aren’t feeling well lately….”

“I feel just fine.”

“Well, you mentioned that you thought you were forgetting things.”

“That’s called getting old.”

And the topic was effectively dropped because I totally lost my balls. I put the appointment page in her purse and didn’t say another word. I’ll let the rest of the family know how it went and they can bring it up over the week with her. On the upside, she’ll probably forget that it was me who brought it up in the first place.

Ambivalence is My Middle Name

It’s funny how I don’t feel like updating here anymore. Every day several times a day I think, “Hey! That would make for a great blog post!” and then? Seriously. I haven’t written a great blog post since never. Speaking of which, I started blogging August 2005.

I have no idea why I brought that up since it’s October somethingorother. Which also reminds me, I won’t be participating in NaBloMo or whatever it’s called.

Did I just hear a collective sigh of relief?

My daughter still hasn’t pooped in the potty but she’s not holding it for five days at a stretch, either. She keeps telling me “next time”. In an uncharactheristic move, she also pissed her pants while sitting on my glider-rocker. As I was stripping her down for a quick belly-button-on-down bath, I asked why she did it.

“It was an accident, Mommy! I’m sorry.” …. dramatic pause … I love you.”

I bought a couple tuttu skirts from Target thinking they’d be a novelty. However, Aitch has become so enamoured with them, I went and bought a couple more. She has worn one at least every day now. When it’s cooler, she’ll succumb to the addition of leggings, but it’s like trying to wrestle a cat into a pillowcase.

I went back for a three-month follow-up appointment with my PA. I need a refill of the paxil and ambien. The thing is is that I didn’t really want a refill of the ambien because I was anticipating my evenings just so I could TAKE the ambien. He said as long as I’m able to get up in the morning and feel rested that I’m taking it as I should. And then we talked more about my depression. Actually he asked why I thought I was depressed. I told him I wasn’t really sure, but that maybe it was the miscarriages and infertility or the pregnancy with Aitch that I was sure was going to end with a dead baby and then the loss of my job after ten years and then the cancer. Oh, and let’s not forget my son’s ADHD which makes him do things that make me so angry at everyone and everything that I’m sure my fury will result in one of those rare cases of spontaneous combustion and the only thing that will be left will be a pair of hopefully fabulous shoes and a singe mark on the ceiling.

I’m sorry. What was the question again?

He suggested, as many of you did, I seek counseling. I told him I would think about it, because you see I am still in denial. Enough so I didn’t pick up my refill of paxil and ambien. At least not yet.

Mind Over What Matters

My mother’s mental health continues to deteriorate with the momentum of a snowball on a mountainside. In short, if Aitch was still an infant instead of a fairly self-sufficient toddler, I would no longer let her stay alone with them once a week for a few hours. She was here today and as I sent her off, I realized it won’t be too far in the future before we’ll have to strip her of her driving license.

This past week, of the three part-time jobs she has in her hometown where she cleaned offices, she was fired from one. She had forgotten to lock the doors behind her. A small town of less than a 1,000 where people don’t lock their doors on their cars or homes, but when it comes to the town bank? Well, obviously they were justified. The other two businesses keep asking my brother to talk to her about quitting. We are of the opinion that if she isn’t doing the job, then they should also fire her. And that’s what my brother tells them. He’s not going to make her quit. They need to grow some balls. She’s 80 ferchrisakes!

The “new” car she bought a year ago has been scraped up from her poor parking skills. I am only hoping that another vehicle hasn’t been involved, but I’m not optimistic. I can’t ask her because she won’t know. She asked me if I can get out of my car when the engine is running. I’m going to let you contemplate that question for a moment…

I was able to quickly deduce that she’s been trying to open the door to her car when it’s still in drive (or reverse – whatever) and of course, as a fairly modern safety feature in every car, the doors aren’t going to unlock unless she puts it in park. Clearly she’s not even remembering to put the car in park before trying to exit it! She can’t figure out how to work the A/C so my dad, who won’t bother even looking at the car, told her to take it to the shop to have A/C put in it. It’s a Cadillac (albeit an older model). That’s pretty much standard. When I looked at it, the message on the read-out says, “Coolant low – A/C not on”. Right there in front of her nose! She would have taken the car to some garage and they would have fucked her right over, crazy-old-lady needing air-conditioning installed on her 2001 Caddy.

The icing on the crazy-cake is her desire to fold my laundry when she’s here. I try to get as much done over the weekend just so I don’t have the extra work that she actually creates in trying to help me, but this weekend was consumed by a sleepover, zoo trip two hours away, and a single-parenting stint. Right before leaving to run some errands, I told her not to put the clothes that were in the washer into the dryer. It was filled with clothes that can’t be dried on high and that’s the only setting she knows how to work. When I got home, she had forgotten my request and my low-heat-to-dry clothes were a wrinkled pile of fabric and I was pissed. She just shrugged and said I hadn’t told her not to dry them.

Here’s my bedroom floor after she folded some clothes.

The many piles are because she doesn’t remember already starting a pile of one kind of thing, say kitchen linens, so she starts another, and then another. I know it sounds petty and maybe even heartless, but these were not issues only a couple years ago, which was why she was able to watch Aitch once a week when she was just a three month old.

My parents are now both in their 80s. My dad’s health is crap. After fracturing his back this winter (and fracturing his hip the winter before) he had for a short time quit drinking, but now he’s back to saucing it up. He’ll be found impaled on a piece of tractor machinery or hell, quite possibly a pitchfork, one of these days. He’ll go out the way he wants: on the farm. It’ll be easier to put mom in a home if he goes first.

One of my sisters and I were talking about which way we’ll end up when we’re that age. Will it be our health or our minds that go first? It’s a 50/50 shot either way. I’m hoping it’s my health, but with the way I’ve been feeling lately, it’ll be the latter.

Foggy

When I went through those years of infertility treatment, my focus was generally on one thing and one thing only: getting – and staying – pregnant. I knew what I wanted. I knew what I didn’t want. I ate, slept and breathed in a cyclical fashion, literally. When I blogged, I knew what I wanted to say and I said it. When I wanted to break up the obsessing, I would share a story about…whatever.

Now it’s Whatever all the time and I wonder more and more what I’m trying to work out. It’s not that I’m not trying to work out something, it’s just that there’s now so many somethings. For instance, I am reading a book, Parenting Children with ADHD, and it’s been the best thing I’ve read about ADHD since Doodicus was diagnosed three years ago. I’ve been highlighting passages through my Kindle that have made me say “AHA!” just so I can share them with you and try to explain why I find them important.

I’ve had this secret about my marriage that I need to get off my chest, but I don’t know how. OK, not so much “how”, but “why”. Why should I share it? Will it really help me to put it out there or will it end up coming back and biting me on the ass like so many other things have?

Then there’s the impulsive confession I made to a fellow blogger about my daughter, which I will state without explanation because I don’t know how to explain it: When I really look at her and not see any of myself, is this how a mother through adoption sees their child? I love her fiercely, almost desperately, but I have these irrational moments where I think, “She’s not mine.”

So instead of writing about any of this here because I don’t have the mental energy to both think about it AND write it down, I write instead about Whatever. My life that was so focused on my infertility is now blurred with what I had avoided, ignored or hadn’t foreseen. I’m living in a perpetual fog.