Two Sundays ago I received the phone call that most children of elderly parents dread. My sister had just returned from visiting our 78 year old mom in Florida. (In the nick of time too because she was flying SkyBus and had to cut her trip short by several days after she got word they were folding and canceling all flights) She reported to me that mom had started exhibiting those symptoms that make you wonder if dementia was on the way. My sister is not one for hysterical overstatement and she calmly described all the things she had carefully documented during her visit that were cause for concern. We both last visited mom together in October and spent a lot of time watching her during our 5 day visit. At that time I (we) didn’t observe anything that led us to believe she might be in trouble and went about our lives, but in less than six months a lot has changed, Leaving out the details she is showing a lot of short-term memory loss, paranoia, new health issues beyond the normal arthritis she’s had for decades and general avoidance of social contact with anyone.
My sister used to work in personnel at Bowman Gray School of Medicine (Wake Forest) and still has plenty of contacts there. After some discussion with a doctor, it’s very likely she had a mini-stroke or has developed some type of internal disorder. The good news is that depending on which, they can either be successfully treated or at least managed. The BIG problem is getting mom to see any doctor other than the one who has done nothing but keep her on pain medicine for years. My sister and I do have our names on all her financial holdings plus Power of Attorney including the healthcare part. Not that I have high hopes this is going to be an easy, enjoyable experience.
As all this was building last week a thought crossed my mind that I don’t think under normal circumstances I would have ever come up with – by dying at age 60 at least dad didn’t have to live thru this with mom nor experience it happening to himself. I’m trying not to feel guilty for thinking that.