One handing holding the hand of a loved one with Alzheimer’s whose speech bubble is fading and incoherent.

Speak Up & Advocate for Your Loved One With Alzheimer's

This pandemic has taught me a lot of things. One of them is the importance of speaking up for my mom because she is having a harder and harder time speaking up for herself.

Mom was diagnosed with vascular dementia and likely Alzheimer's disease. She has trouble with word-finding and remembering things in general. She still knows us, but she forgets if she has ever eaten a McRib before. They aren’t in restaurants very often anymore. We all can forget that, and maybe it’s for the best.

Being with my mom at a doctor's appointment

We went to a podiatry appointment recently. They have new pandemic protocols, like most medical facilities these days. They only want the patient to come in and no one else. The receptionist was giving me pushback about accompanying my mother. She preferred that I wait in my car. I was feeling somewhat forced to comply. She was adamant. I decided to be more adamant.

Mom's ability to recall information

I thought, "What if she can’t remember the answer to a question?". I might know the answer. Usually, I’m more worried about Mom giving the long answers to every question and being in there forever and making the doctor run late! She is from Mississippi, after all. I can give short answers.

They will ask her if she has run a fever or had a cough, she will start telling them about the cough she had three years ago that "lasted for a month or two!". “Mom, they want to know about the last two weeks. They want to know if you have had this virus, COVID-19.” I try to keep her concise, on track, and on topic. How can I explain to the receptionist that I am doing them a favor?

Mom's ability to find the right words

What if mom can’t find the words. I can’t let her go in there alone. So, after Mom sat down, I told the receptionist, that I really want to be in there. Mom has been diagnosed with dementia and has trouble word finding. I need to be in there with her to help her. She looked at my mom and looked uncomfortable, got permission from someone, and said it was ok. I felt victorious. I stuck to my guns for my mom and could be there with her.

Then the next couple came in. The receptionist wanted her to wait outside. He couldn’t walk well. English wasn’t their first language. She asked to go in with him to help him walk and to help translate. The receptionist let them both come in to wait. I thought to myself, they had no idea that I had paved the way for them! I had worn the receptionist down before they got there!

I was my mom’s translator

I needed to make sure she understood the treatment. This wasn’t her cancer appointment or primary care doctor. Mom just needed her toenails cut! But the nurse asked about her medications. She didn’t remember all of them. I have them all written in my phone.

The nurse asked about her last appointments with her doctors. I had that in the calendar on my phone. Mom didn’t remember. Mom told me and the nurse she was glad I was there, because she has memory problems. It was very touching to me.

I’m glad I didn’t take no for an answer. Mom was glad I was with her, and she still got in some cute stories.

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