In our first post, Mrs. Smith learned of and finally came to terms with her husband’s diagnoses of dementia, probably Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is not an easy diagnosis while a person is alive, but experienced doctors can make a fairly accurate diagnosis through eliminating other causes of the dementia. In the case of Mr. Smith, […]
Mrs. Smith: So doctor, is my husband going to be okay?
Doctor: Well, in the short term I think he will be fine, but as you know his memory is a bit off and that concerns me.
Mrs. Smith: Yes, that’s true but I attribute that to old age – he’s 81 you know – not a spring rooster anymore!
Doctor: No no, I am aware of that, but this is a bit different than ordinary memory loss associated with the aging process. Something else is happening that is more insidious. For instance, he recently had the incident of misplacing the car keys that you shared with me.
Mrs. Smith: Oh yes, that was so funny. We ended up finding them in the dishwasher of all places. Imagine that. I guess he thought that would be an easy way of washing the car. He always had a good sense of humor. He’s so cute.
Doctor: Well I suppose there is some humor in that but one does not normally mistake his car keys for the actual car or a dishwasher for a car wash. And on the testing I did on him, the standard mini-mental test, he did very poorly on that as well. He scored an 11 out of 30 which indicates moderate dementia.
Mrs. Smith: Oh, that’s nothing. My husband never scored well on those standardized tests. He always hated those tests in school. But he is so intelligent.
Doctor: Well, this is a different kind of test – not like an SAT test you would take to enter college. These are basic questions that are asked like recalling words I have told him, or counting backwards, or drawing the hands of a clock at a certain given time. This is a test for memory and executive functioning, not intelligence.
Mrs. Smith: Well the next time he will have to study a bit more but I am sure he would do fine if he took the test again. He’s always been an overachiever you know.
Doctor: Well, the other thing he told me when I was just meeting with him privately is that he believed you were his secretary, some woman named Sue or Suzie or Sophia or something like that. Does that ring a bell?
Mrs. Smith: WHAT? He thought I was his secretary!! Why that no good &#%!@? I think he’s lost his mind!!
Doctor: Precisely Mrs. Smith, that’s what I have been trying to tell you!
I recently heard a story about a wise old man, a young boy and little bird that I thought was very insightful. Since it was my first encounter with the story, I did what comes natural these days and Googled the title to see if the story has been told before or whether this was an original piece. Not surprisingly, the story has been passed down over the years and told in many different variations. Taking that as a license to re-tell the story for myself, here is my version and reflections of this timeless story:
As a practicing lawyer for over 25 years, it is fair to say I have seen life from many different vantage points. In fact, it is the thing I love most about being a lawyer – I get to know and understand a client’s problem or challenge from the client’s perspective and see the world through their eyes. On TV lawyers are about the dramatics of the courtroom and withering cross-examinations, but in the real world, most lawyers are down in the trenches alongside their clients trying to navigate a foreign terrain and solve emotionally charged problems. Hopefully I have been helpful to many of my clients, but on the flip side of things, I have learned a great deal about life from my clients.
You could see the anguish in his eyes. I just met this fellow (not a client) but it was apparent he was struggling to keep it together. “What’s wrong my friend” I asked? “Oh, it’s a personal thing I am dealing with,” he replied. “I need to see my attorney this afternoon and sign some papers. My wife and I are going through a nasty divorce and we are scheduled to be in court next week. There are so many issues – custody, child support and financial stuff and fighting over who gets what. It’s just a mess.” Not wanting to pry too much I asked whether he and his wife are close to resolving things and whether he had thought about mediation as a way of addressing the issues. “No” he said, “we are way beyond anything like that. Like I said, it is pretty ugly.”