Is This Azheimer's? (This is Alzheimer's # 3)
March 10, 2013
THIS IS ALZHEIMER’S . . . . or is it???? Did you know that there is no true 100% way to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease? The ONLY way to be sure a person WAS victim to Alzheimer’s disease is to do a brain autopsy after death and to actually view slices of the brain and see the plaques and tangles in the brain tissue. With all the advances of medicine there are tests that can be done to get a pretty accurate diagnosis, but maybe 95% at best. The other catch is these tests have to be done rather early in the disease process. The main symptom of Alzheimer’s is dementia. Dementia means “without mind” and that is exactly what we see when a person is a victim of any type of dementia . . . Changes in behavior, poor decisions, confusion, memory loss, inability to follow directions, trouble with language, agitation, anger, and so on. So a person suffering from dementia is really limited to the types of tests to be done because everything is upsetting and confusing. This becomes more of a problem the further into dementia a person is, no matter the cause. So, back in 2009 when I took mom to Dr. Bernick I did so because I had spent hours and hours doing research. I was not only looking for the best doctor, but for answers as to what could possibly be wrong with my mom. At that time the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health was in the later stages of the building process. When mom and I first went to Dr. Bernick he was in a little tiny, cramped office waiting for the clinic to be done. I will never forget that day. I had scheduled an appointment in December of 2008. The earliest I could get in was February of 2009. I took it. When we arrived that day his sweet nurse, Josie, asked me in her strong accent, “Where is your referral?” I panicked inside, but I took a deep breath looked her straight in the eyes and said as tears began to well, “I am the referral, please don’t send us away, please.” She touched my arm and said, “We will figure something out.” And they didn’t send me away, thank God. I was then led to a very small break room and asked to sit next to the microwave. My mom was put in an exam room down the narrow hallway. Dr. Bernick came in and I had all kinds of papers with me from my hours of research, emails from family, and mom’s history. I explained that we had been to a neurologist . . . “the best” almost two years prior and mom had been diagnosed with depression. I had been told, “This woman does not have dementia.” I also explained to Dr. Bernick that she had only gotten worse and the depression medications did nothing. I told him that all her symptoms pointed toward either Frontal Temporal Dementia or Alzheimer’s. I really felt she had Frontal Temporal Dementia (FTD) (used to be called Pick’s Disease). All of her symptoms aligned perfectly with FTD. Either that or she simply just couldn’t deal with all the stresses of life and was checking out, going crazy. I told him that she had a pretty difficult life going through many tragedies like losing her first born baby, 3 divorces, etc. . . . I remember saying, “I don’t know what is wrong with my mom, but something is very wrong. She is NOT herself in any way and I just want to know why.” Dr. Bernick assured me there were steps we could take to figure it out and that he would find me some answers. Basically since there is no way to 100% diagnose Alzheimer’s disease you have to go step by step and eliminate every other possible cause of the symptom of dementia. He did this and along with her brain scans from 2007 and the one he had her do, by March he had determined that most likely she had Alzheimer’s disease. It was noted on her diagnosis and record as, “Dementia of an Alzheimer’s Disease type”. We had briefly discussed FTD and at that time Dr. Bernick felt Alzheimer’s was a more accurate diagnosis as there was evidence of shrinkage through out mom’s entire brain not just in the frontal and temporal lobes. However he did mention the shrinkage did appear to be heavier in those regions. So, after today’s visit Dr. Bernick said really it is a toss up. My mom displays behaviors that are consistent with both, however the language and eating issues are definitely more apparent in FTD. There are test that if she would respond to questions they could be administered and there are scans that could be done if she could follow directions better. However, she is beyond that and therefore whether or not it is Alzheimer’s or FTD we are doing the best thing we can. Dr. Bernick had no problems with her being off her medications and that even peeked his interest as far as leaning closer to FTD too. So, I was thrown a slight curve ball today because I have always kind have suspected FTD, and today I felt like that was sort of confirmed. However, this doesn’t change anything the process and the outcome will still be the same. NO way to prevent either Alzheimer’s or FTD, NO way to slow either and NO cure for either. Both result in slow progression until death. IT IS WHAT IT IS . . . Only God knows and only in His kingdom will my mom be healed. . . . THIS IS ALZHEIMER’S.