One of my very first patients when I started medical practice twenty years ago was an 80 –some year old Finnish lady whose only request to me was to keep her well enough to take a citizenship test in a few months. She has lived in the US for many years, had been a much loved elementary school teacher, an inspiration to others with her simple charm and grace….. but was now worried that what she perceived as failing memory would preclude her from impressing enough to be able to gain citizenship. Over the next few weeks and months, I met with her several times… in my office (when her children drove her over), in her home, and even at our local coffee shop. We chatted about our lives, children, respective countries of origin. I got to know her well. Well enough to realize that all she needed was encouragement to rekindle her faith in herself. Ia passed her citizenship test with flying colors! We celebrated at out favorite coffee haunt with a red, white and blue cupcake.
Over my two decades of practice, I have taken care of hundreds of patients with incipient or advanced Alzheimer’s dementia. Connecting with each of them at a personal level has helped me never lose sight of each of their individualities while I apply the latest algorithms and medical interventions to their care. I look at each of them with awe… each of their lives never fails to amaze me.