I was visiting with a friend last evening. The weather was lovely and we were enjoying an evening of conversation on the patio: firming up the menus for 2 week-end barbecues and discussing how to entertain some visitors from Australia that I would be receiving the next week. So it was quite a long evening.
Over the course of the evening, I began to notice that she was repeating stories. I’ve noticed this to a certain extent in the past but not to the degree that it was occurring last evening.
Of course, coming from a background of caring for a father with dementia and having been involved with the Alzheimer’s Association, the possibility of dementia in ANYONE is always at the forefront of my mind. I even suspect myself of having it from time to time.
But this was different. One of the things that she reiterated (not less than ten times) was how she makes her smoked ghouda omelettes. I can now cite the directions verbatim! From choosing only bacon that comes from “Tim’s Market” to “carmelizing the heck out of the onions, mushrooms, and chopped bacon”, I’m pretty sure that I can do her recipe justice.
Of course, that’s not the point. The repetition of that story (and 2 or 3 others) and the frequency of the repetition was distressing. Knowing her medical background also makes it disturbing. There was a situation about 2 years ago where she suffered heart failure and coded at home. She remembers the EMS (Emergency medical system) personnel saying “We’re losing her!” In the hospital, she suffered renal failure and was also diagnosed with Diabetes Type II.
This is the perfect set up for vascular dementia.
I believe that one of the reasons she repeated her stories more often than usual last night is because she has had some bad news about a very close relative. Also I am not around her enough to know if her bills are being paid on-time, if she has misplaced items frequently, or if she has gotten lost while driving. But I still believe that this was a big enough warning sign to cause me to wonder what to do next.
Her family doesn’t live close by and in fact are not even in the same state so it’s not likely that they’ll be able to notice these small changes.
Even when speaking to a relative about the possibility of dementia, there is always fear of embarassing, hurting or alienating them. It is awkward under the best of situations and with a friend I think that fear is even more profound.
I think for now that I will just watch her a little more closely and if the subject of dementia comes up, I’ll nonchalently mention an instance relating to something I saw and ask her opinion about it.
What would YOU do?
NOte from Shelley: If you’re worried that YOU might have dementia, here is the link to a self administered “Gerocognitive Examination” provided by The Ohio State University: http://www.sagetest.osu.edu/Sage-Form1.pdf