Sunday, October 16, 2011

Geriatric Specialist

On September 28 we saw the geriatric specialist, Dr. K. We were very impressed with what a lovely bloke he is, his respectful attitude towards his patients, and the clear, straightforward way he explained things. He did various tests and confirmed that my darling does have a degree of forgetfulness that suggests dementia. 'Don't be frightened of that word,' he said. 'It's only Latin for imperfect memory. It's not a disease, it's a syndrome.' He ordered further tests to determine what is causing it, i.e. what type of dementia it is. Apparently all types are treatable, Alzheimer's most of all! Those tests have now been performed, but we can't get in for our follow-up consultation until early December — he's very busy! However we now have enough information to schedule a visit from the Aged Care Assessment Team, so that we can then get any services we need. They will be phoning this week for an appointment to come and see us.

I am hugely relieved that Dr K confirmed Dear Husband should definitely not drive now; he would be a serious danger to himself and others. He hasn't driven for at least 12 months, except for a short try of our new car on a quiet road because he wanted to check it out. When our licences recently came up for renewal, at first he said, 'I don't think I'll bother,' then he started thinking he'd like to be able to spontaneously go for short outings on his own. I persuaded him to wait until we could ask Dr K. As I reminded him, it's not only the driving — he needs help getting in and out of the car, and getting his wheely walker in and out. I also explained that it needn't mean the loss of his independence. I'm usually available to drive him places, and if not he has his taxi vouchers. But anyway I'm truly thankful it has turned out like this. Saves all the worrying and wondering.

Since then he has surrendered his licence, and we were pleasantly surprised when the Road Traffic Authority offered him a ‘photo ID’. This serves for all those occasions when we use a driver’s licence to identify ourselves. It looks quite like a licence except for the colour (a nice greeny-blue) but of course doesn’t allow him to drive. I feel it preserves not only convenience but dignity. It seemed to soften the blow of losing that piece of his independence.

Dr K also confirmed what I have been thinking (and acting on) — I can't leave him home alone for long. Even though he hasn't had a fall for some months, he is a fall risk. This is due not only to his arthritis and peripheral neuropathy (nerve condition of the legs) but also poor balance, which may be related to what's going on in his brain. He is very unsteady on his legs. The ACAT people will help organise respite as required, so I can get out of the house when I need to. At present I can duck out for a 20-minute walk or a quick trip to the shops to pick up his medication, staying in touch by mobile phone, but I can foresee a time when even that won’t be possible.

The other news is that an occupational therapist came and looked at our unit and recommended some modifications, and the Housing Department is doing them in about three weeks. (The OT thought it might take them 6 months!) They can't do anything about our front steps, but they can make the back steps easier for him to get in and out of the house that way, and they are putting in some more safety rails in various places.

I recently made sure our Wills, Powers of Attorney and Guardianship were updated. (Basically the same as the previous ones we had, in a bit more detail and with things like home address and spelling of some names corrected.) DH hasn't yet been diagnosed as unfit to manage his affairs, and I don't expect any such diagnosis at this stage. He has some loss of cognitive function (practical tasks) but is perfectly clear on such things as what he wants left to whom (of the vast fortune, you understand!).  However I thought it best to get it all organised while that's still the case. After seeing the specialist, I'm very hopeful it may never stop being the case! We are both feeling very positive now.

He is still very engaged with life, love, and writing. He has another children's story ready to go as soon as his secretary (me!) formats it for ebook publication. He has his adult novel, Salt, nearly finished, and is still compiling material for his autobiography.

Although it was time to get this check-up, and time for clarity about what is going on with him, we haven't given up on him. As well as whatever treatment Dr K might suggest when we see him in December, we are excited by the results we're getting with our new T.E.N.S. machine, and with the Genome Healing techniques we learned earlier in the year.

The machine was a godsend. He had been bed-ridden with pain for some weeks, when, on one of my quick forays to the shops, I walked past a pharmacy and saw the sign: PAIN RELIEF, ENQUIRE WITHIN. So of course I did. We had heard of the T.E.N.S. machine before, but only in a large verson usually bought by institutions. Even at a discount, the price to individuals was $1,000. Now here it was, the size of a mobile phone, for $200. $50 extra bought some special shoes to use with it to help circulation in the legs, which is one of his problems.

‘How can I pay it off and take it home right now?’ I asked.

‘Simple,’ said the shop owner. ‘We’ll open an account for you.’

It hasn’t cured the problem but he is now pain-free for longer periods, and much more mobile than he was. He seldom needs his walker to get around the house now, and can even do without it when we’re out so long as he only needs to go short distances.

He has the occasional weird moment, like asking how to insert the paper into his laptop so as to type on it (!) or deciding — and fortunately forgetting soon afterwards — to start training for the ministry. Mostly he’s lucid, and even quite sharp, just forgetful of names and practical procedures, and needing to be told things a few times. In some ways he’s childlike, but we’ve always enjoyed being childish with each other, so we continue to laugh about it. I do get exasperated and impatient at times, but I’m quick to catch myself and change it.

‘Does he get moody?’ the specialist asked. He does get snappy at times, for no good reason that I can see — but mostly, with age he just gets sweeter.