August 26, 2000

It's Difficult to Say the "A" Word

Stepmom is now five weeks into a trial of exelon, a new medication for memory problems. It's not experimental, in the sense that it's been approved by the governments of both the US and Canada, but the doctors don't have much direct experience with it yet.

The Memory Clinic is providing Stepmom with a three month supply of the pills, with the dosage to be gradually increased. The first four weeks were fairly uneventful, but since the dosage has been raised (six days ago) she has experienced nausea and sweating, on and off. We're told this is to be expected and ideally, her body will adapt to it.

Dad, who is on record as her "caregiver", gets regular phone calls from nurses affiliated with the drug company that is monitoring the progress. (You don't get three months of free medication for nothing!) The nurses are at his disposal whenever he needs information, too.

The thing is.. we still don't have an actual, specific diagnosis. Is it Alzheimer's Disease?

When the problems began, about a year and a half ago, a brain scan was done and it showed evidence of small strokes. Since then we've been told at various times that she had "mixed dementia", some Alzheimer's, no Alzheimer's, and "of course she has Alzheimer's" (the latter to me in private, while I was nagging the overburdened doctor.) This excerpt from a wonderful article about Alzheimer's Disease on WebMD sheds a bit more light on the confusion:

There are two major causes for dementia in the elderly: Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia (abnormalities in the vessels that carry blood to the brain). Experts currently believe that 60% of cases of dementia are due to Alzheimer's, 15% to vascular injuries, and the rest are a mixture of the two. Vascular dementia is primarily caused by multiple small strokes (called multi-infarct dementia) or Binswanger's disease, which affects tiny arteries in the midbrain.

I wonder how long it will be before the word "dementia" passes into the non-politically-correct list.

Yesterday, Dad and I dropped by the hospital to pick up a new supply of pills, and were able to speak to the psychologist who's running the drug trial. Dad asked him, point blank, "Does my wife have Alzheimer's?" He didn't get a satisfactory answer, just more dementia doubletalk.

I realize that at this time there is no diagnostic test for Alzheimer's Disease - it's diagnosed by ruling out other causes of memory loss and cannot be confirmed before autopsy. Still, I think I'd prefer it if the medical professionals would clearly state that they don't know, rather than dance around the subject.

On a lighter note.. I'm thinking of considering looking into perhaps adding a weblog. Maybe it's a bad idea.

At first I thought weblogs were mostly for links, and just finding an interesting linque du jour is challenging enough; but I see some journallers are using them to post random thoughts or observations; I get the impression it's less time-consuming than writing and uploading an entry.

(Note to Sasha: I'm finding your font a little small. Too lazy to email you, maybe you'll see this.)

Then again, some begin and then abandon (?) it; perhaps it distracts too much from the journal proper. Perhaps the world doesn't need to know every time a thought passes through my head.

Then again, it can't hurt to try. I'm going to go read that blogger page and see what it can do.

One more thing - if a few of you think it would be a good thing for me to put up a forum, I'd be glad to. I think there are enough forums around already, but it was something I had originally intended to have - translated, that all means I'd like to do it but I don't think anyone would come.

Guestbook? Poll? Chatroom? Mmmmmmm.. I don't think so.

Linque Du Jour:   Aug. 24 entry, The Chattering

August must be Mammogram Month - Bonnie of The Chattering recently recounted her experience. She's right, you do feel the need to stand on tiptoe. I hadn't realized that until she said it. She also found some hilarious cartoons to go along with the entry.

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