I went home and did my research on dementia and its many forms on the computer. I read with dread and my optimism sank with each new article. My ideas of helping Mom and enjoying her company were slowly being destroyed.
Overwhelmed, I turned to my sister Roxann. During the past few weeks she had been my confidant and sage. Angry or frustrated over something Mom had done, I called her crying. No matter what she was doing, Roxann stopped and took the time to listen to me. With this phone call, hearing the desperation and stress in my voice, Roxann decided it was time for her to visit New York and Mom. Besides she wanted to meet Dr. Costello and be there for his next home visit, when he gave Mom the conclusion of his analysis of his recent visits. We knew it would be life altering for all of us.
With guidance from Dr. Costello, we determined it was best for him to tell Mom the truth about her condition. He arrived on one of those summer days that makes you realize why you live in upstate New York, bright blue sky, the light green spring leaves just beginning to turn to darker summer green and temperatures and humidity at the level to enjoy the warmth of the sun and a cool breeze, as it brushes the hair from your face. I longed to be outside doing something, anything different than what was happening in my home.
Dr. Costello, with his kind eyes and soft voice, gently told Mom she had dementia, while Roxann and I held her hands. It was brutal to watch her expression change from denial to realization. Mom asked a few more questions, then became silent and eventually lost interest in what was going on around her, while Roxann and I questioned Dr. Costello as to what we should do next. Later that evening she did not seemed bothered at all by her news and we avoided it like the proverbial elephant in the room. We wondered how she could have accepted her fate so easily.
Mom’s reaction became apparent and heart wrenching upon Dr. Costello’s next visit and for many after that, because each time, Mom would ask him the same question. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe him, the truth was she couldn’t remember from visit to visit what he had told her and I grieved each time with her.
In a strong voice, determined to handle her own life and the unknown she would ask,
“What is wrong with me?” Dr. Costello would answer every time as gently as he did the first:
“Corki, you have dementia.”