Alzheimer Granny’s daughter Marian had been worrying about her mother for some time. So finally she decided that they should go to see her doctor and get some help from him.
Doctor Dolittle greeted Alzheimer Granny in his usual friendly manner.
“And how are you doing?” he said.
“Oh, I’m fine,” she said, smiling at him.
“I’m worried about my mother,” said Marion to Doctor Dolittle, who had been her mother’s doctor for many years. “I think she’s having memory problems.”
“Ah, said Dr Dolittle, turning to Alzheimer Granny, “So how do you think your memory is?”
“It’s fine, I’ve always had a great memory — still do,” she said, as Marion rolled her eyes.
“She’s doing strange things when she shops,” said Marion. “Last week, she bought twenty cans of beets. She doesn’t even like beets. Her refrigerator’s always empty.”
“How’s your social life?” Doctor Dolittle asked Alzheimer Granny.
“It’s fine, I go out to lunch with my friends every day and I play bingo three times a week.”
“My mother never goes out any more. She used to but now she says she doesn’t like it. She says people talk too loud. She hasn’t played bingo for over a year. She told me they read the numbers too fast,” Marion put in desperately.
“She doesn’t know anything. This is the first time I’ve seen her for month,” said her mother angrily.
“I take a meal over to her every evening,” her daughter said.
“Well, none of us is getting any younger,” said Doctor Dolittle. “You have to expect a little memory decline at our age.”
“It’s not a little,” she said. “There’s something really wrong with my mother. She doesn’t drive any more because she kept getting lost.”
“You know how they keep changing all the roads,” said Alzheimer Granny to her doctor.
He smiled and nodded.
“Well, let’s just keep an eye on things,” he said kindly to Marion.
When Alzheimer Granny was settled into the passenger seat of the car, she scowled at Marion.
“You always like to cause trouble,” she said angrily. “Ever since you were a little girl. You’ve always been a nuisance.”
Marion felt very hurt but she wasn’t going to let things drop. When she had set out her mother’s dinner, she went next door to talk to Suzie Robbins. Suzie was a community nurse and a good friend of Alzheimer Granny.
“Come on in,” said Suzie cheerfully. “Would you like a coffee?”
Over their coffee, she confided her worries about her mother. Suzie listened, nodding as if none of this was a surprise to her.
“I should have talked to you earlier,” Suzie said. “I’ve been worried about your mother. Remember when Timmy died?”
Timmy had been Alzheimer Granny’s gigantic orange tomcat. After a long and troublesome career, Timmy had been found sleeping the sleep that has no end in the bathtub. Finding her cat cold and stiff in the bath, Alzheimer Granny had called Marion in a panic.
“It’s his arthritis,” she said confusedly. “He can’t get up. Do you have some medicine for that?”
“Who?” asked Marion. “Whose arthritis?”
“My — the — my friend,” said her mother. “He’s stuck in the bathtub.”
“Stuck? You have someone in your bathtub, Mom?”
She rushed over to find her mother washing Timmy the cat with hot water,
“What are you doing, Mom?”
“He’s so cold.”
Once Timmy was safely removed and interred in the back yard, Marion offered to get her mother another cat. Her mother looked at her in bewilderment.
“I have a cat already,” she said. “I don’t need two of them.”
“Yes,” she said to Suzie, “I certainly do remember Timmy.”
“Well, your mother regularly comes round to ask me if I’ve seen him or if I’ve got him. Once or twice I reminded her that he’d died of old age, but then she’d get very upset — as if she’d only just heard about it. I knew there was something wrong.”
Marion told her about Doctor Dolittle.
“Well, you know he’s about the same age as your mother. Sometimes, it seems specially hard for older doctors to admit their older patients could really being getting Alzheimer’s, or whatever.”
Marion went cold.
“Is that what you think Mom has?” she asked Suzie.
“I have no idea. You know, Marion, don’t you, that there’s a whole host of things that look the same as our idea of Alzheimer’s. Your Mom could just be depressed. Your Dad died. Her cat died. Her other kids live a long way from here. She might have other health conditions — lots of health issues make a person look as if she has dementia. And a lot of them can be fixed or regulated in various ways. Even dementia can maybe be modified or helped.”
“So is there a better doctor I could get Mom to see?”
“There’s a really good gerontologist you could take your Mom to. That’s really what she needs. She needs someone who could have your Mom go through the whole Alzheimer’s workup.”
“What does that involve?”
“Oh, it’s very thorough. MRI, Cat scan, bloodwork, medication review, investigation of other health conditions which might affect her mental status, extensive interviewing by a social worker and so on. It usually takes a couple of days to have everything done.”
“It sounds expensive,” Marion groaned.
“All covered by Medicare, my dear.”
“That’s something anyway.”
“Now, Marion, I hope you don’t mind me suggesting this but I would NOT necessarily tell your mother in advance about the appointment. I’d just go and pick her up like you would for any shopping expedition. Then I’d drive her to the doctor’s office and go in with her. And you might usefully write down a list of the things you’ve noticed that have changed. Memory issues. Mood changes. Lifestyle issues. Make sure the doctor gets that at least a couple of days before you see her. Doctor Patel, a very nice woman. Very smart and friendly. Your Mom won’t worry about her a bit.”
“I’m just terrified Mom’s got Alzheimer’s.”
“I do understand, honey, but whatever it is, it’s best we know. Then we can all figure out what to do.”
“You hear so much about it — how horrible it is.”
“Frankly, there’s many worse and more painful things than dementia, as a nurse I’ll tell you that. I won’t say don’t worry, but I’m here and we’ll all help each other the best way we can.”
“Oh thank-you, Suzie!”
Even so, walking back into her mother’s house, Marion felt her heart sink.
“Hallo, dear,” said Alzheimer Granny to her daughter, “Did you see Timmy out there? I want to give him his supper?”