Memorable Conversations with Doctors

Conversation 1

One doctor acquaintance, on discovering my mother still had borderline hypertension despite medication:

He said: You have to optimise her hypertension drugs, make sure to keep her blood pressure down. How often are you measuring the  blood pressure? Do it five times a day. What time is she taking her meds? You have to change the time to control the blood pressure better. She’s not taking her medication at exactly the same time every day? Why not? She can’t remember? Someone will have to be responsible for it. Get the maid to give her the  medication according to the clock! You don’t have a maid? Then you have to do it yourself! Manage it! You can’t leave it like that. So what are you going to do?

I said: Let me go back and review it again.

I think: I don’t think I’ll be asking for your advice again anytime soon.

Sculpture by Dali evokes what we feel - a sense of reality being stretched, contracted and warped

Conversation 2

First visit to neurologist at Memory Clinic. Mom has done the memory assessments, and he has questioned her about her past history.

Neurologist to mom: Do you know why you are here today? Why are you here to see me?

Mom, hesitating: You’re the doctor.

Neurologist: Well, what is the problem that you are seeing me for?

Mom, pointing at her left eye: Well, I don’t see very well with my eye.

Neurologist: No, you’re not here for the eyesight problem. You’re here because you have dementia.

I am aghast, because nobody has told mom she has a problem with her mind, and I do not know how she will take the news.

She turns to me, smiling quizzically: What’s dementia?

He says: You have a problem with your memory.

She says: Oh no, I have no problem with my memory.

Conversation 3

I say: My mom has just been diagnosed with dementia, and fortunately for us she is now sweet and agreeable.

She says: Enjoy her while you can. Just enjoy her.

My Son Just Went Home!

Coming back quite late one day, my mother greeted me with “My Son just went home!” to let me know he had visited and left.

Now why did she say it that way?

a) She forgot who I am

b) She forgot my brother’s name

c) She forgot the word brother, so she could not say, “Your brother just went home!”

Supermarket and beginnings

Today we go to the supermarket as we normally do during weekends. As we go round the aisles, mom tries to help, sometimes holding the trolley steady. She tugs a plastic bag off the roll and struggles to peel it’s mouth open. Here, you go, she passes it to me. At times, she hovers around, eyes upon my back… to see where I will go… and follows. She scans the shelves when I do, so much to look at. She  doesn’t offer suggestions, makes no comment of what she would like to eat. She walks quite well considering, but with small hesitant steps.

When did we first notice that something was not quite right? It happened very gradually, over the years. Probably just in the last 2-3 years. I notice conversations became much simpler, her garden more straggly, and then there’s the hoarding. Old books, old newspapers, and rolls and rolls of unopened toilet paper. Why don’t you get rid of the newspaper, I asked her, pointing to the 2 four foot stacks just inside her front door. Oh the price is not right, she says.

Conversations became extremely short. How’s your work? Is it difficult? And often she would just recite the headline of the day. Do you know, it’s terrible what happened, in spain, in china, in that place, that time. A few months ago, I discovered she has forgotten my birthyear, and forgot that I am her eldest child. She argued briefly, then gave up the conversation.

But usually she hides it well, acquaintances do not realise anything is wrong. Even family finds it hard to remember not to rely on what she says.