Alzheimer’s Study, Third Meeting


So I finished the neuropsych test. I’ve taken them before. The first was after we had to place my mother in a nursing home. Her boyfriend and the eldercare social worker both called me and my sister to tell us that Mother could no longer live without support. She lived in another state at the time so Patty and I were suspicious of her illness but not certain. The social worker kept us informed.

The tellers at her bank always double teamed her because, as she was walking out the door, she forgot that she had gotten money. She would go driving around in the middle of the night. For the moment, she at least, was finding her way home, at least that was our hope. She had gotten into a few car wrecks and misunderstandings with the neighbors. A friend was helping her pay the bills.

Since Mother was living out of state, we got a local lawyer who specialized in eldercare and Patty and I went to court behind Mom’s back because she didn’t believe that she was ill.

Long story short—it was a heart-breaking day. We had to break my mother’s heart to keep her safe. My sister and I broke a little too.

My mother had been a dynamic nurse. She helped do research in cardiac catheterization and cancer treatment. Likely as not, if you get intravenous chemotherapy, you are being treated with something she helped build.

She traveled the world teaching people how to implant the subcutaneous chemotherapy pump she helped invent. She had friends all over the world. She saved lives. Now she could walk past someone she had known for years and not recognize them—someone like her daughter.

My sister and I broke a little for our mother but I was also scared. Mother, both her sisters and her mother had all died from ALZ. My mother has lived the longest. She is 92 and the only one left.

I have to face the distinct possibility that I will share their fate. So when I got home after the nightmare trip to make my mother safe in spite of her wishes, I made an appointment with a neurologist.

My first clue that my visit to the doctor might be a little premature was the nurse seeing me to the exam room then running down the hall shouting, “She came by herself!”

“Well, yeah.” I said. “I don’t have Alzheimer’s at the moment but I’m worried.” Everyone calmed down and they proceeded to examine me.

They took some blood which is how I found out I have the bad gene and they gave me a neuropsych test to see how my brain was functioning at that moment.

The test is actually kind of fun. They give you lists of words and ask you to say as many as you can remember. They give you lists of numbers, starting with four and going up to eight or so and ask you to recite them. Sometimes they ask you to recite them backwards. They ask you to count backwards from 100 by threes or sevens. I hate that one. I’m terrible at it.

They tell you stories and ask you to repeat them. During that first test, they told me a story about a cafeteria worker with two children who got mugged and the police took a collection to help her out. This time, with the clinical trial, they told me about a tsunami that hit Miami Beach and did about 27 million dollar’s-worth of damage. Seventeen people were injured but no one died. I like stories. I have a special capacity to remember them. Maybe that’s why I try to write them.

The test administrator (the inquisitor?) told me that I did well on the test. He sounded impressed. So far so good.

Next visit, I get an MRI.