Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Dennis Goes to the Neurologist

Dad and I went to see Dr. Hansen this morning at Methodist Hospital. Dr. Hansen is a neurologist that seems well versed in Alzheimer's/Dementia issues. His nursing staff was especially sharp. I enjoyed the visit as much as one can possibly enjoy such a thing and felt strongly that Dr. Hansen was more than capable.

Dad scored a 13 on the MMSE (mini mental state exam). It was his worst yet, but he remained cheerful through the whole thing. The doctor asked him if he had any memory issues. Dad said "no" and asked me if I thought so. I hit that ball right out of the stadium. He did not argue with me once. Praise the Lord. I hope he is finally accepting it. Even if he did, he would probably forget about it. It's a horrendous disease.

I was seeking the answer to two questions; should Dad continue to drive and should he be left home alone?

The doctor checked Dad's physical reflexes, he asked him some judgement questions, he asked me questions about what I have observed and then he gave us his conclusions.

Dr Hansen thinks that the driving privilege should be the last to go. The concern is the effect of the loss of freedom on the patient. He said that safety is seldom the issue with Alzheimer's patients. The real concern is getting lost. And this is true from my observations. Dad's driving skills are intact. His reflexes are good and the doctor proved this to me today. Further to the point, Dad has no traffic tickets, no warnings and he has never been stopped by law enforcement when driving. He is still a good driver.

Dr Hansen also thinks that dad is safe to be at home alone during the day given his answer to the question, "what would you do in a fire?"

So it seems that my philosophy of granting maximum freedom in a familiar environment for as long as possible has been correct. Having purpose, even if it's just mowing the lawn, helps Dad stay focused and the knowledge that he can drive when he wants to or needs to gives him a sense of confidence and independence, even if he does not use it all that much.

Dr Hansen says that Dad has had an unusually good run with his brain disease. The decline has been slow and gentle rather than the hard fast decline that many experience. He advised that this could change at any time and he expects acceleration very soon. The 13 score on the MMSE indicates this.

We are scheduled to go back in February on Groundhog Day to see how things have progressed. Six months is an eternity in Alzheimer's World. I consider it a challenge to keep him going. I know that eventually I will fail. It is the nature of the disease. But for now...Dad will continue to drive - to the dog groomer, to the barber shop, to church and to the lawn mower shop and all those other places he never tells me about. His driving will end on the day he gets lost. He will continue at home with me, until and unless he becomes unmanageable or beyond my skill level for treatment and care.

All of you that have been urging me to ground him and institutionalize him are wrong. It is not time for either of these. I think I will know. My instincts have been correct to this point.

I know that some of you do not see a purpose in my efforts. You are just wrong. He is my Dad. He let me live in his house and fed and clothed me for 18 years and the last 5 of those I was fairly disrespectful. I should be able to put up with this for a while longer. I have not got much of a social life anyway. In my present state, I should not probably have one anyway. This task is actually helping me I think.

You can remind me that I said all this the next time you hear me bitching about it...that will, no doubt, happen shortly. 

I love him, I love y'all. If he says something crazy to you, just smile and go along with it. Please forgive him if he asks about your wife that's been dead for 17 years or your brother that's in jail. Enjoy how happy he is living in his own shrinking reality. I cannot just throw him away or put him into storage because of your lay opinions or even mine. He is God's own and I am in charge of him until God calls him home.

Please pray for him. I am not sure what God's purpose is in this, and I do not have His bigger picture of the situation. May the Lord have mercy on him. The poor guy has to live with me :^)