After sudden bizarre verbal declarations, lack of boundary with strangers, and wandering away, my stepmother and I knew what had to be done. He lost employment due to a lack of executive function, yet he was still undiagnosed. Stepmother and I worked and after certain statements, he couldn’t be safely left home alone. A local day program accommodated our needs and he enjoyed going. His speech, however, went from bizarre and hurtful, to stutter. Medical evaluations began with primary care and very empathetic to our concerns.
“Mr. Marcum,” the doctor began, “Do you know why you’re here today?” “THEY think I am sick or something!” He pointed at us and folded his arms standoffishly. “Can you tell me who they are?” “My daughter and my wife,” he said confidently. We sighed in relief. “What would you like to talk about today, Mr. Marcum?” “Snow. It’s snowing outside. See?” The sad reality was a mild, rainy, winter day
That was our cue to use indoor voices and express concerns to the doctor. Ultimately we left with some blood work results that seemed normal, aside from his lifelong hereditary struggle with high cholesterol. The referral to the local Neurologist lead us down the path to diagnosis, after referred for observation at Wake Forest, NC.: Frontotemporal Lobe Dementia. The observational scans also showed that he had two mini-strokes
“He’s only 58 years old! How? Why?”
The family knew something was wrong, but we were still shocked to hear the D-word. Relief came in knowing what to expect and guard against. As his boredom increased I would try to engage him with a TV program or a familiar physical task.
My experience as a Certified Nurse’s Aide had only shown me that dementia occurs after age 75. I encourage all family, friends, caregivers to follow the path of advocating for your loved one. I know it seems like a lot of useless doctor visits, but it is so worth it to get a diagnosis.
If you notice your loved one complains of stroke-like injury, take them to get checked out. If/when they exhibit out-of-character speech, take them to primary care for a check-up. Survey options in your community for daytime senior care, tour and ask questions. LOTS AND LOTS OF QUESTIONS!
“Dad,” I took his strong hand, “We brought you to the doctor because we love you.” “I know you both love me, thanks for bringing me.” he kissed my forehead.
Tiffany Marcum is an author. She is currently working on writing a book on her experience in behavioral health and caregiving. For more information about her and her work check out her website https://tiffanymarcumauthor.wordpress.com/.