Sometimes it’s better to laugh than to cry. This can be very true when caring for an Alzheimer’s patient. I wrote this poem about taking my mother for her evaluation and published it in my first book about Alzheimer’s caregiving, Mosaic Moon. I did this reading at the Hawaii Child & Family Services luncheon earlier this month.
At the end of the poem, I mention my mother’s concern about money. When I read this for the lunch group, I noted that it is one of the things that dementia patients often talk a lot about, their finances. Sometimes they fixate on one person and say that he or she is taking their money. Sometimes that’s one of the symptoms of dementia. But it is VERY important that caregivers investigate these accusations, because sometimes it is true, and it is not just their altered perception.
Diagnosis: Genius Rejected
Anxious like a mother with a preschooler,
Hoping for entrance to nursery school,
I sit next to my mother with a silent prayer:
“Please answer all the questions wisely.”
“Mrs. Kakugawa”, the diagnostician begins,
“What is your name? Where were you born?
How many children do you have?”
Ah, good, good, she’s passing with flying colors.
I keep my eyes on his chart,
Checking to see that he marks
The right column, noting Pass.
He upgrades his questioning to:
“Mrs. Kakugawa, you are at Las Vegas airport.
You have lost your airline tickets and it’s time to go home.
You have only three dollars. What will you do?”
Without hesitation my mother says,
“I’ll put the money back in the slot machine,
Make plenty money and buy another ticket.”
“She’s a genius,” I’m applauding silently.
I watch his pencil move to negative on her chart.
Yes, she should have said, “Use a telephone and like ET,
Her ingenuity has no place on this chart.
“Mrs. Kakugawa,” he continues.
“You’re walking down the street and you find a letter.
It has an address and a stamp on.
Tell me what you’ll do with this letter.”
Once again my genius in disguise answers,
“I’ll check the address and deliver it to the house.”
Of course she will. She knows all her neighbors.
Another great step for her brain cells.
Wrong. He marks negative on her chart.
“Increase her Aricept.”
I walk my mother out, saddened
That geniuses are off his chart.
“How did I do?” she asks,
“Do I have to pay him? Do I have money?”
“You did super good,” I say.
“And no, you don’t have to pay him.
He should pay you!”