I’ve put off writing this post until I knew I could do so with clarity and without crying.
In early September I received a detailed transcript of my most recent visit with my psychiatrist. I’m accustomed to getting these medical follow-ups; it’s the norm at Mayo Clinic. But I wasn’t prepared for this one.
After reading the long, detailed description of my office visit, which contained a recap of my test scores, an update of my “symptoms,” along with my daughter’s observations, there was a section entitled Impression Plan and Diagnosis, which contained the following:
“It appears that Mrs. Laken has progressed over the course of the last year and now with her dependency on her husband for routine activities, I believe she has crossed the dementia threshold.”
I had to sit down before I could read the last sentence again. My eyes kept returning to the ugly, vial word dementia. Did I read correctly? I don’t remember him saying ‘dementia’ during my visit. My daughter Beth was with me, I’ll have to check and ask if she had heard this dire, dreaded diagnosis as well.
I returned to the page, my hands shaking. The psychiatrist mentioned possible meds and future testing for his own purposes (because I’m a participant in an extensive Alzheimer’s disease study that follows people diagnosed with MCI and their progression, and have been for the past five years).
The final paragraph of the report read: “I tried to emphasize the positive aspects of her quality of life given the slow nature of her underlying disorder, and that she has excellent family support.”
While I’m sure that statement was meant as an attempt to reassure and comfort, it did neither. I felt weak and had to sit down to catch my breath. My hands were shaking, and I read the report over at least three more times.
The psychiatrist mentioned possible meds, which to this point in time have not been proven to ‘cure’ dementia—but may in some cases may help delay or slow down the progression. I declined any meds except a weak anti-anxiety med, a med to decrease my nightmares, and one to decrease my neuropathy.
Even now, a month later, my stomach knots as I write this post. But I wanted to alert my readers of this change in diagnosis from MCI to dementia. I suspect there will be some who will no longer want to continue reading my posts due to my decline. I understand this hesitancy. Dementia is a vile word, and the condition is demeaning, progressive and incurable.
Nevertheless, I will continue to write and post as long as possible.