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SENIOR ADVOCATE

By Liza Horvath

 

But Mom Seemed Fine

 

Casey, a fashion consultant, was enjoying a successful career which kept her busy, but still left her time to frequently visit with her mother, Erica. Her mother had retired to Carmel and Casey says that her mom seemed happy, healthy and apparently loving her life by the sea.

 

At age 75, Erica walked every day, socialized with friends and continued to play piano for her captive audience – a poodle named Ferdi. Many times when Casey would come to the house she could hear her mom’s playing long before she got to the door and it always brought joy to her heart. Then, things began to change. Telephone calls between Casey and her mom would be short – with Erica wanting to sign off quickly. Soon after, Erica stopped answering the phone when it rang and, when Casey would arrive in a panic fearing the worst, Erica would brush her concerns aside saying she had simply not heard the phone. Erica’s house continued to appear neat and organized, but Casey noticed that Erica was becoming forgetful. Bills would be paid late or not at all and once when Casey came to visit her mom’s car was in the driveway – running. When Erica appeared at the door in her bathrobe, Casey realized that the car had been running in the driveway for a trip that apparently Erica had forgotten all about.     

 

Erica stopped her daily walks and, when she did walk, Casey observed a shuffling gate. Erica complained about pain in her feet but both ladies attributed to too many years wearing high-heeled shoes. Erica withdrew socially and, finally, Casey could no longer ignore the fear that her once vivacious and intelligent mother was succumbing to dementia – or worse, Alzheimer’s disease.  

 

“When it comes to neurocognitive issues,” says John O’Brien, CEO, Central Coast Senior Services, “if you hit the nail on the head in terms of a diagnosis it is remarkable how you can turn a patient’s life around.” We read and hear a great deal about Alzheimer’s disease and most know that of the top five causes of death in the U.S., Alzheimer’s disease is number 4. The disease is not preventable or treatable and the expected lifetime of an Alzheimer’s victim is short – usually ten or twelve years from the date of diagnosis. Less known are the many “pseudo dementias,” – illnesses that manifest Alzheimer’s-like symptoms but that are treatable and often can be reversed.

 

Erica’s feet continued to worsen so Casey took her to a podiatrist who, to his credit, suggested that Erica’s forgetfulness, trouble walking and (now) hammer toes, were all symptoms of Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus – commonly referred to as NPH. An exam and MRI showed that Erica did, indeed, suffer from NPH and surgery was performed to drain excess fluids from around her brain. Had Erica not been diagnosed and treated properly, the increasing pressure on her brain would have continued to rip away her cognitive and motor skills and would have, most likely, killed her.

 

The change after surgery was remarkable; Erica’s mental functioning improved and she began to walk better. While Erica will not fully recover, she is beginning to take part in social activities and is again playing the piano – much to both Ferdi’s and Casey’s pleasure.

 

Many are quick to attribute forgetfulness to age or accept that physical degeneration is inevitable, but we should not. As O’Brien states and as Erica’s case proves – a correct diagnosis can turn a life around.

Liza Horvath has over 30 years experience in the estate planning and trust fields and is the president of Monterey Trust Management, a financial and trust management company. This is not intended to be legal or tax advice. If you have a questions call (831)646-5262 or email liza@montereytrust.com

 


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