I may have Alzheimer’s disease. Or not.
On January 29, 2015, I had my second appointment with a geriatrician; the first was the year before that. In 2014, I scored 29/30 on the Standardized Mini-Mental State Examination (SMMSE or MME for short); I knew the day of the week, but I missed the date. Oops.
A year later I delivered a perfect 30/30. I got the date right because the appointment was the day after my birthday. I turned 59 on January 28, 2015. A nurse administered the test, and then I saw Dr. G., the geriatrician.
I told him that while I had scored perfectly on the test, I had noticed changes in my own behaviour and memory over the last several months.
“The test is only superficial,” Dr. G. said. “What kinds of things have you noticed?”
“Well,” I began, “the other day at breakfast I noticed my toast was sitting on the table, not on the plate where it should have been. And I had no idea how it got there.” He made a note of it.
“I find things in places I wouldn’t normally put them. Nothing like the phone in the fridge or anything, but little things like a sweater in the wrong drawer, or an aluminum pot with the glass casseroles instead of with the pots where it should be.” He made a note of that too.
“Sometimes I can’t remember how to spell words I know how to spell,” I went on. “And sometimes I’ll be working on something and all of a sudden my mind just goes blank. Completely blank. It’s like a vacant parking lot – no cars there, nothing driving in or out. Just a void in my head, like I’m in some kind of suspended animation.” He took more notes.
“Are you stressed?” He looked up from the scribbles in the dossier. Well yeah, who isn’t? “Not any more than usual,” I replied. Which is true. On a stress scale of one to 10, I’m probably a seven. By comparison, a year ago at this time I hovered around 19 on a scale of one to 10, and during 2011/12 it may have been higher as I cared for a loved one with dementia full-time in the person’s own home.
So overall I’m still stressed, but much less than I have been. SNAFU, really 🙂 I told him about the root canal I had in December, the headache and toothache I’ve had for the last month and that I have no family doctor having been deactivated by the one I had because I hadn’t visited often enough. That seems SO wrong to me, but that’s another story.
I didn’t mention I spend half the day looking for things. Everyone does that. Or at least I think everyone does. I also didn’t tell him I occasionally wonder if I’m driving on the right side of the road or not — that’s been happening since I spent a year in New Zealand in 1979.
Dr. G ordered further tests. An EEG, and some kind of additional memory evaluation to start. They say changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease may begin years before symptoms appear. I suspect many people choose to deny, mask or hide the symptoms until they become too obvious for those around them to ignore. Perhaps they’re afraid to talk about what’s happening to them.
I may be experiencing the early early early stages of the disease. Or not. Perhaps it’s “normal” aging, or something else entirely. I’m not afraid of getting Alzheimer’s, and I’m not afraid of talking about it. I hope I don’t get it of course! But what I hope and what happens may be different things.
Both my aunts had it, my uncle has it not too. My maternal grandfather died in his fifties of cancer, but I believe some of his sisters had it. I recently learned my paternal grandfather might have had it as well.
I believe my risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease if I live into my 70s is relatively high. By documenting and sharing my experience as others such as Kate Swaffer are, I hope to help people deal more effectively with the disease today and add to the body of knowledge that will eventually lead to a cure.
If I don’t get it, so much the better. Tracking that eventuality will also be useful, given my family history. However my destiny unfolds, I’ll keep you posted.