Tuesday, March 29, 2022

It All Started in May... Or Not!

FYI:  The About This Blog... page has been updated.  You can get there from the main menu.

We had just returned from our six-month "snowbird" experience in Silver Springs, Florida when I noticed that Pam was having trouble operating the microwave.  It was the end of May 2021.  Our departure was shrouded in chaos.  Pam had sold the Sebring convertible she had driven for twenty years and I sold the tow dolly that had dragged it around behind our motor home.  I then bought a Jeep Cherokee so that we could flat tow (all four wheels down).  We had to rush up to New Hampshire to pick it up and get it registered.  Once back in Florida, I purchased the tow hitch and scheduled the installation of the tow plate.  Little did I know that there was a three-week backlog.  We finally left Silver Springs on May 4th and headed to a week at Stone Mountain, Georgia to visit niece Michele.  Our time together was precious, but we made the most of it.  As I pulled out of Georgia, I noticed a skipping in the engine of the motor home, which just added to the chaos.  So we made a mad dash back to New Hampshire.

 I watched Pam trying to warm her coffee in the microwave and she was pushing buttons but not really understanding why it wasn't doing what she wanted.  I tried to show her which buttons to use, but the next day I saw her back in the same situation.  I also noticed that as we were conversing, she was having more difficulty than normal in remembering words or names.  And there was a hesitation in her speech that I had not noticed before.  As we age, names slip our memory for a short time.  But this was more obvious.  It seemed like she was also having trouble using the Roku TV in the condo.  But we had purchased one almost eighteen months earlier for the RV.  It seems like she just didn't know what button to press next.  I was alarmed because it seemed like new behavior.

As the weeks progressed, I noticed a continuing decline in her ability to think problems through.  And it became acute when she started to lose the ability to remember the month or day and even to just tell time.  We had been gone from New Hampshire for twenty years, so I began researching new doctors and medical practices.  Many of the recommendations leaned towards Elliot.  So after a few phone calls, we had our primary care provider assigned.  The first visit yielded an MRI appointment and a consult with neurology.  Pam's score on the Mini-Cog test wasn't bad, but the doctor noted a perceptible delay in answering.

When the neurologist uttered the words "symptoms consistent with late-onset Alzheimer's" the reality of the symptoms hit me right between the eyes.  The tears generated on the trip home went unnoticed.  That appointment resulted in a quick turnaround for one with the psychiatrist and the diagnosis was confirmed.  I began watching videos and reading about the various forms of dementia.  That made me recall a conversation I had almost a decade earlier.  We were seeing a counselor to work on our relationship.  After several months of separate and together sessions, the LCSW shared that she felt that Pam had indicators of Lewy Body dementia.   I don't know if it was denial or we were just spurning the input, but we took it no further.

As I was sharing the diagnosis with our daughters, they just nodded and said that they had suspected that.  Apparently, I was oblivious to the signs because we are together day-in and day-out.  The girls had all noticed an increase in word-finding issues and more frequent conversational disruptions.  So it did not all start in May, it had started at least a decade earlier.  But the changes were so minimal that they went unnoticed by me.

 I feel strongly that the support that Pam is receiving from the geriatric psychiatrist's staff has been awesome.  I should say the support that WE receive has been awesome because they are just as concerned with caregiver well-being as they are with that of the patient.  From their perspective, having daily eye-to-eye contact with other human beings is most important in slowing the progress of the disease.  The absence of hobbies or volunteer activities maintained prior to the diagnosis has made that objective more difficult because of the depression experienced by the patient.  But we will work on it.

1 comment:

  1. So sorry to hear that the aging process has caught up to her, but it is still true:
    Though everyday is a very precious gift, you have to be very careful how you unwrap it because you never know what's inside. Good luck to you both, our best wishes, hopes and prayers are with you!