Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Alzheimer's first hand
From my first hand experience with what we hopped was a little senility to the years of sadness and helplessness in my mother was made even stranger in retrospect by the humor along the way. The stages of this problem result in a series of medical experiences with a nutritionist and that seemed to be helping but not enough so we tried a psychologist, a neurologist and with the insistence of well meaning friends a holistic MD as well as our general practitioner who was the quiet anchor with common seance. One of the expressions of perhaps all the well meaning professionals that became more and more outrageous from specialist after specialist was, "Mrs. Whitney, you have to remember you are not getting any younger." Such a profound statement from highly recommended specialists and I wondered how long a veterinarian would last with his clients with that destructive statement. I presume the idea was to soften the idea she was better aware of than anybody that she was getting older. The Holistic Physician was something else. There were a dozen names mentioned on a list of the best. I chose one 40 miles away who was second on the list. Here was a grossly over weight flush faced middle aged doctor who led us into his office and showed us chairs, sat down at his desk, pulled out a desk draw and brought forth a package of cigarettes and began lighting one as he said,"I presume you don't mind if I smoke," without waiting for a response. I thought how my mother would not allow anyone, even guests to smoke in her house. He began the examination with a discourse on diet and I knew most human physicians know they are taught virtually nothing about diets in any medical school in our country. However I was assured of his knowledge on the subject when he insisted mother eat only one brand of ice cream. I wish I had a tape recording of that dissertation on health and where all the secrets came from including special emphasis on oriental foods. Have you ever heard a person talk rapidly for a full 20 minutes with time out only to blow cigarette smoke in your face before dotting the end of the last sentence without saying a thing worthwhile? I did understand his last sentence, "That will be $50.00." Another well recommended physician who started out our relationship with, "Mrs. Whitney, we will address every problem you have and do everything we can to help." Never did the late Dr. Donald Dock even think of advising her the painful truth that she was not getting any younger. He did just as he stated and explained sometimes holding her hand what he thought was going on and was, along with Dr. Gordon, our long time family physician, the only really effective medical help we found. My sister from Florida dropped in about every six months and after a few hours of one visit confided in me that she had found mother's problem. "She is spoiled and we must work to unspoil her." I said, Julie, she is 90 years old and how can you talk about unspoiling her?" I knew mother enjoyed a nice restaurant and that usually meant one with cloth tablecloths. At one, siting across the table from me she reached for her coffee cup. The problem was her hand was under the table cloth. "Mother, your hand is under the table cloth!" Not only did the coffee cup and saucer turn over but the vase of flowers, too and that caused the amazed expression on the faces of every one around us. Another time we were comfortably seated and mother said,"Call the waitress." I asked, "What for? Can I do something for you?" "No, call the waitress!" I finally caught the eye of the waitress and she came to our table, "Can I help you?" Mother who in the past would never complain about anything shouted out, "Don't we rate? you are pouring coffee for everyone else,why not us?" The waitress had poured each of us our coffee as she seated us. From then on I sat next to her to prevent other spectacles . I took her to a day care center to see if she might enjoy company.She looked around and in a loud voice said, "Get me out of here. No one is smiling." My wife, Dorothy was a dedicated help for mother and she and I were the only people she remembered but she made a great impression on guests. Dorothy had discovered ways to overcome mother's disagreement of something. when asked if she were ready for her bath and Mother would answer no, Dorothy would ask if she wanted it hot or cold. she took a hot bath and when she put her leotards over her shoes and was asked why answered, "I always wear them that way." When I had to have a court order to take charge of her finances she greeted Judge Flynn with warmth and an offer of sharing her breakfast with him. She was so normal I was embarrassed until the judge asked her a bunch of questions such as her age, who the president was, our town's name all of which she would turn to me and say, "I forget. What is it, George? That was the ending of a great lady who, if she had had the opportunities my father had had would have risen to a position of importance and perhaps her years of Alzheimer's was kinder than other problems of old age. The pain was with her loved ones and our memories are those that preceded her problem. Wonderful memories.