The age of seventy-three seems to be the age when my personal care physician begins to worry about my susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease. In the past year he has given me two different tests for the disease. From his response, I think I did well, but why is he monitoring me this closely? And how do I feel about the whole process? (The New York Times had an article on early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and test from a study done by Ohio State University,
When the doctor suggested the first time that I take the test, I remember thinking: I am not good at taking test. I am dyslexic and my brain has never worked the way people who test people assume brains work! So I was more than a little anxious.
The latest test, two days ago, I did make a mistake; or you could say my brain showed its quirky side. This time the doctor’s nurse gave the test. First, she showed me three objects and put them in order: a hypodermic needle, a plastic glove and glasses. She told me I should remember what they were and the order she showed them to me. Then she started a series of questions to be answered orally; and drawings that I was asked to manipulate in redrawing them. The questions were related to short-term memory: What day of the week and month is it? Who is the president of the United States? Then she asked me write a sentence with a noun and verb in it. I wrote the sentence as asked, but pointed out to the nurse that the question was unfair for someone with limited education. Finally, we came back to the three objects. I got the order correct, but I called the hypodermic needle a pen—my brain was remembering that I used to carry an “Epipen” to give myself a shot for a severe allergic reaction.
From the beginning of this blog–just over five years ago–I have tried to reflect on the role of consciousness in stories and the events of daily life. I think at some point I spoke of my stories for the last third of life; that is, I am concerned with the consciousness of a person’s coming to the end of days. This may come with death, but it may come when I slip beneath the waters of dementia. If or when the dementia happens, I will not be conscious of it. So maybe I should welcome the dementia tests as a warning sign that my time on this earth is coming to an end.