two sides to every coin

Forgetfulness is one of the big curses of dementia, but it’s sometimes also one of its blessings. Mom called me on the phone last week and happily chatted with me as if nothing had happened. Has she completely forgotten the traumatic melt-down from December that caused her to refuse any contact with me for over a month? It’s hard to say for sure, though there’s no doubt that much of what happened (if not all of it) is no longer accessible in her memory. I’ve talked with her several times now over the past week and have even visited her on two occasions. Our relationship is back to what it once was, with no mention or reference to the Christmas incident. There’s no reason to bring it up. In fact, I believe the most compassionate response is to never mention it again. It was extremely traumatic for all of us, and for mom most of all, I’m sure. Best to let it fade and to move on.

It’s clear, though, that mom is currently in the grip of realizing the seriousness of her cognitive decline. Until recently she’s been in vigorous denial about it, but there are daily reminders now. When I visited with her last, just a few days ago, she began crying as we said our goodbyes. I know it’s because she’s now acknowledging the extent of her condition. What a frightening thing to realize one’s own loss of memories and mental capacities! My heart aches for her.

These past several months now it seems as if the decline of her mental capacities has been accelerating. We’ve been after her doctors to have her assessed, with limited success. She had that appointment at the start of January, after I sent that letter to her medical clinic detailing the progression of her dementia. During the appointment they had her take one of those cognitive assessment tests for dementia and she scored quite low, indicating that she indeed has dementia. They also referred her to a neurologist but left it to her to make the appointment. But it seems she forgot about the referral almost as soon as she left the appointment and my dad and I have been trying ever since to get the clinic to call her back and arrange the appointment for her. It’s been a shit-show, to say the least. My dad finally had to physically march into the clinic last week and demand to talk to someone, complaining about the lack of responsiveness and the inadequate treatment she’s getting. This finally prompted some action, though it’s been woefully uncoordinated. We’re still trying to figure out if an appointment has been made with a neurologist yet, and where (there are only two or three neurologists in the town they live in).

But, on a positive note, she was finally brought in to meet with (for the first time ever) her assigned doctor a few days ago. The doctor went over her various prescriptions only to discover she had stopped taking several of her medications, including all of her anti-anxiety and anti-depression meds. She stopped taking them a couple months ago when she’d been referred to a gynecologist for a persistent yeast infection she’s been dealing with. It seems the gynecologist told her she no longer needed to be taking her medications! Or at least that’s what my mom understood her to be saying. Frustratingly, she hadn’t told dad or I about this, so we had no idea. She’s notoriously close-mouthed about her health matters, even with me and dad. This is another thing that makes all of this more complicated.

But knowing now that she’s been off these medications for the past few months helps to explain some of what we’d been seeing, especially the alarming increase in her anxiety and panic episodes. It was very scary for her, too, even causing her to recently start waking in the middle of night in full-blown panics. She expressed to me recently how frightening this has been for her, and how glad she is now to be getting back on her medications. Still, it’s a process. She never should have stopped those meds cold-turkey like she had, and now she has to slowly work back up toward the doses she used to take and which help her the most. It’s causing her a lot of nausea and feelings of illness to be adding these pills back into her routine. As a result, she’s hardly eating at all. We’re doing our best to get some good nutrition in her, but we can’t force-feed her, and so we’re crossing our fingers and watching her closely, hoping for the best. It’s a day-by-day thing.