(Mom and I)
The year was 1996 and my mom had gotten lost for the first time in her car driving out to my house, a trip and a route she had driven several times in the past. A year or maybe two had pass and no other incidents like that seem to occur now my mom established herself a tradition years earlier of always cooking my husband a rum cake for Christmas and she was a wonderful southern cook never writing down a recipe, we all known the type a pinch of this and a dab of that. Well one Christmas she brought her traditional rum cake the only problem was I think she forgot to include the cake I watched her closely that evening and she seemed fine, but it was enough to provoke me to call my older sisters and to call her doctor. Now I was at a new career high and raising a preteen and at the same time traveling; a lot would be an understatement with my job and having two sisters who are both retried ( young retirees ) was a welcomed blessing or so I though. Mom called me one day crying "someone had stolen her flowers out of the flower bed" . I got in my car and drove over to examine the crime and she pointed to a spot which she stated she had planted her yearly annuals, face still wet and eyes puffy from crying her heart out when I noticed the ground had never been toiled. Now I was really concerned. I called my sisters again and was informed by one of them “mom was just doing things to get attention", called another one to ask if the doctor had reported anything to her "oh everything is fine" later I discovered she only drove her to her appointments but never went in or expressed any of our concerns to the doctor.
My labor of love would soon come into full bloom. We had built our house moved in and our preteen wasn’t adjusting to the move well at all; I was on the road a lot and my husband was working full time and being Mr. mom as my career took off as well as his (our poor daughter had both parents in management type positions and all the extra work that includes) and to top it all off my mom was just not herself anymore. An update in the type of telephone she owned seem to end her ability to make phone calls anymore; something she had always enjoyed ,was talking on the phone, old friends slowly died causing even more social isolation ( which we were there to fill ), slowly came the change in sleep habits, and just wondering around the house late at night or sitting in her living room entertaining guest that only she could see, and then there were the cut-off notices for the utilities because she had thrown the bills out with the trash, looking for her Social Security check got to be pretty interesting month to month ( I actually had to think like a impaired individual.... once it was in a shoe and another time in the oven). I was still checking in with my sister "what was the doctor saying about all this" my once so well groomed, highly organized, cultured mother had gone completely over the edge.
I decided I would call to make another doctor’s appointment, attend the appointment personally. Mom was still pretty sharp on most days she was still able to dress herself, perform many actives of daily living and attend church and hold an engaging conversation and like most individuals with early dementia cleverly redirect the focus off of their deficits; which she had done at so many of her appointments with her neurologist. The doctor would ask her a question and she would compliment her on her shoes (flattery can get you everywhere including misdiagnose) I had to request formal testing and refused to leave until she performed at least one cognitive exam on my mother something my sisters would never had done (that would have required her to actually go and sit in the room), now maybe I could finally get some answers after almost three years. I have been my mother's power of attorney for many years and have full authority to both review and obtain all medical records and it was in one of these medical records in which the neurologist which she had been seeing now for some time started referring to my mother's test results "she scored 13 out of a possible 30 on the Folstein mini-Mental Status Exam. She only got 1 out of 10 on the orientation questions and that was the city in which she was. Object recall was intact immediately but she could not recall any items at 20 seconds". In closing her history and physical she comments "I am sure she faked her way past us for a while. I (referring to herself) even commented on how alert she was three years ago but did not test her formally" for 3 long years my mother was delayed being started on the proper medications. We walked out of that appointment and my brain was racing.