Yesterday I casually mentioned an appointment for blood work. He took this well. It is something that he has always done for management of his thyroid, and it seemed much less threatening than saying "doctor's appointment".
This morning after he was showered and ready for the day, I reminded him again about the lab appointment. At this point he started to become quite anxious and agitated. The conversation that followed and the fevered pitched of anxiety are all too hard to describe, or even imagine. I told him I would cancel the appointment, and he was visibly relieved.
10 minutes later I told him that I had a doctor appointment, and asked if he wanted to go with me. I was certain he would say yes; he said yes!
I had prepared a written document summarizing concerns and recent changes. At the last minute, I added a sticky note that said "Jim thinks that this is my appointment. It is the only way I could get him here." It worked beautifully. The nurse weighed me and took my BP, and then asked Jim if he wanted to get his checked too. He agreed!
Here is the document I prepared for Dr. S. (Modified slightly for privacy) :
Jim returns today for follow-up for his dementia. He started citalopram about 8 weeks ago. Since then, he has shown significant improvement in his anxiety/agitation.
While he still has upsets, they tend to be less severe and of shorter duration. He does best when we are home. Being away from home tends to cause him anxiety.
In retrospect, the progression of his decline has been quite rapid. A year ago, he would have classified as “mild” dementia. His symptoms as of today, put him in the moderately severe category.
Given the fast progression over the last year, can I expect further progression at this fast of a pace?
Since he last saw you 8 weeks ago, the following changes are noted:
- His confusion has worsened. Many times will incorporate what he sees on TV into his own reality (ex. thinks that Trump is speaking to him). He has increased difficulty with comprehension of the spoken word. Speech is often nonsensical.
- He no longer allows someone else to stay with him to allow me a brief period of time away from home.
- He needs quite a bit of help in activities of daily living. (The other day he put deodorant on his face and tried to put toothpaste on his shaver. He needs some help in the shower.
I'm beginning to notice some changes in balance and coordination.
- Sundowning occurs most evenings: confusion worsens, pulls clothes out of his closet, doesn’t know who I am, thinks he needs to go home etc. In spite of this, he usually settles down by 9:00 and most nights he gets a good nights sleep.
He is followed by Dr. M. for acquired renal cysts and BPH. He was unable to go to his annual appointment due to his anxiety. I do not see how Jim can continue with this follow-up; the office is across town, involves both an ultrasound as well as an office visit, all of which appears to be too much for Jim.
His last appointment at the dentist for routine cleaning was beyond his ability to cope. He would need sedation to handle a dental cleaning. I cannot foresee taking him back, unless a dental concern arises.
Unless you advise otherwise, I am not inclined to have him start a cholinesterase inhibitor, given his advanced dementia, the minimal benefits, the fact that it would not alter the progression of the disease, and the concern for unwanted side effects.
The appointment with Dr. S. went well. She and I had a good conversation about the issues. We were able to do this, even with Jim present, by using vague language and avoiding a direct mention of Jim's name. It's a reminder to me of how much difficulty he has in comprehending the spoken word. Here is a summary of what we discussed.
She totally agreed with my thought to avoid any further follow-up for other health issues as described above. The value of such appointments would not outweigh the negative effects and the stress it would put on Jim.
Dr. S. asked me if I was getting enough help. I told her no, but that I expect that as the disease progresses, Jim will be more receptive to others being present/helping.
She says that everything that Jim is experiencing is what one would expect, given the advanced progression. The rate of progression will likely continue at a faster pace than what most folks with AZ experience. This is helpful for me to know, so that I can better plan for our future.
She is recommending low dose Seroquel to help with his agitation. Half a pill to start, increase to whole pill if needed. Use only on an "as needed" basis. At some point she says he may need it every day, but to start, just take as needed.
One of the last things that Dr. S. said was to be sure and call her if I need anything. And I will!
That about sums it up. The amazing thing is that throughout this whole discussion, Jim did not pick up on anything at all as being unusual or out of the ordinary. As we left the office Jim said "So what did she say?" I replied "She said I am in good health."
On a totally different note, my brother and his wife picked up my mom and drove her to our house for a visit. It was great! I hadn't seen them in 6 months. They stayed for about an hour. Jim did well with the visit. I had clued them in ahead of time on how best to make sure that the visit would go well.
Another post is written. As always, thanks for stopping by.