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Alzheimers

My mum’s deterioration continues.

Whereas just a few months ago she would argue that there was nothing wrong with her memory and try to help with the cooking (she actually thought she WAS doing ALL the cooking), she now seems to accept that she is no longer capable of either remembering, or cooking.

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During the second visit to the memory clinic, the consultant prescribed a pill for mum. This is designed to slow down her memory deterioration. The doctor told us that there was a choice of two pills that would help mum. Because mum’s kidney function does not look great, but her pulse rate was ok, she had to prescribe Donepezil.

“All three cholinesterase inhibitors (of which Donepezil is one) work in a similar way, but one might suit a certain individual better than another, particularly in terms of side effects experienced.” **

I had to ask then, given that the pulse rate suggested mum’s heart function was ok, what the cardiology appointment was for at the end of July (which, by the way has now been cancelled and is causing no end of phone calls to be made to find out why and/or re-book).

Readers of the previous post will know that as the consultant was not aware of that appointment (which came following an ECG mum had had as part of this memory clinic process), we had to hold off on the prescription, and she said would get back to me as soon as possible.

Three weeks on an I am still waiting to present the prescription at the chemist.

Since our first visit to the memory clinic at the beginning of May, we have become aware of many previously unknown support organisations. These however, seem to be seriously undermanned and overworked.

  • An Admiral Nurse phoned me to ask what they could do to help – but as we were at this stage, I could not say. She did however, give me lots of information that I have yet to fully digest. Most of it seems to involve the council and lots of waiting.
  • The lady from Making Space said that she would send off for, and then help us fill in, Attendance Allowance forms – as these were reputed to be horrendous. This she did and the forms arrived two weeks ago. However, getting in touch with the same lady on a day that she is working has been impossible. I eventually presented myself at their office and sought the help of someone else – who will meet us tomorrow.  Even if the help isn’t as urgent as it may seem for my mum, the forms are official forms with a date stamped return date, which is fast approaching.
  • At the memory services clinic itself, I never seem to get the same person twice. When I first became worried about mum’s prescription, I phoned and was told that they (the consultant’s office) were waiting for a reply from mum’s G.P.  So – I visited the G.P. surgery and found that the reply had been sent by FAX the previous week. When I phoned the clinic again and told them that the G.P.’s answer should have been received, I was told that the consultant was on holiday, but that mum’s case would be one of the first dealt with on the Monday (this week).

I phoned again on Monday and left a message with whoever answered the phone.  I called in at the clinic on Tuesday and left a message with whoever answered the phone that was handed to me on reception. It is now Wednesday and I was told yet again that a note had been left for the consultant/doctor to call me to say “yes” or ‘no” to the prescription.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all of this so far, it is to begin early (i.e. when you are much younger and more capable of pushing hard for the services you deserve) and to try and avoid June – August, when everyone goes on holiday.

** From: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/info/20162/drugs/105/drug_treatments_for_alzheimers_disease/3

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/118316968@N08/19444505382 – with thanks for using Creative Commons.

Future posts on this subject can be seen here: https://failingtoremember.wordpress.com/

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Memory Diagnosis

Following on from my previous post about my mum’s fading memory – https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2017/05/04/memory-test/ today was the day we visited the specialist doctor.

Sharon and I accompanied her to the same place as before.

Mum’s memory function has deteriorated quite a bit since the first visit almost two months ago; not so much that she has no awareness of things around her, but nevertheless, there has been a significant decline. E.g. she introduced me to the doctor as her brother.

So, we were not expecting any ‘good’ news.

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The CT scan she’d had showed nothing more than age-related deterioration, her pulse is perfect (72) and the only ‘bad’ (inasmuch as it’s not a worry for this memory process, but it’s not ‘good’) is that her eGFR1 (estimated glomerular filtration rate2) was only 35. This could be another issue to watch, given that it shows moderate to severe loss of kidney function, but for now I’ll stick to the issue of memory.

The doctor mentioned dementia, but then avoided it suggesting that she didn’t like the word (neither do I) and towards the end of our interview suggested that this was Alzheimer’s, without actually dwelling on that. I suspect that once the paperwork all comes through – that’s what will be the diagnosis.

As part of this process, mum had also had to have an ECG, the result of which is that she has to visit the hospital again on July 31st, to see a cardiologist. Today’s doctor knew nothing about that – but promised to follow it up, especially as the drug she was prescribing for my mum depended on heart rate to a certain extent. She phoned me about an hour later to say that the G.P. was out right now, but that she would be in touch again next week. The medication aims to slow down the memory loss process.

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We were then introduced to the local Making Space representative. Making Space provide specialist dementia care alongside support for sufferers that enables them to stay in their own home for as long as possible. At this early stage, we only required information, advice and guidance. Sharon, the lady we met, was superb and was able to put my mum’s mind at rest and to answer the questions we had brought. She is sending me leaflets to read and more information about the services available to my parents. My job will be convincing my dad to take some, if not all of these up.

Some of the support I will be aiming for over the next few weeks will be to find an Admiral Nurse5 to pick up on my mum; to get my dad to reconsider applying for a Power of Attorney over my mum’s health and finances and to apply for Attendance Allowance on behalf of my mum.

Sharon, at Making Space has promised help with all of those.

References

Photo Credits:

https://pixabay.com/p-544403/?no_redirect

Jigsaws

Readers may have noticed that quite a few pictures of jigsaws have been appearing in my Flickr Stream, which appears below the Archives link – to the right of this post. These have all been completed by me, over a period of years.

I started doing the jigsaws sometime in 2012. Our friends Karen and Dave had invited us to stay with them at a cottage in Derbyshire and Karen had brought one along with her.

I was hooked.

It helped that I’d heard from friends that jigsaws were good for memory retention and brain exercise and as I was getting quite a way into my 60’s, I started scouring the charity shops for examples to complete. Sharon bought me the first puzzle, https://flic.kr/p/dQ8VK1 which almost put me off for ever. It was well-worn to begin with, but I persevered and managed to complete without too much frustration.

 

Studies [..] have shown that keeping the mind active with jigsaw puzzles and other mind-flexing activities can actually lead to a longer life expectancy, a better quality of life, and reduce our chances of developing certain types of mental illness, including memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s Disease (by an amazing third)(3).

KING

That first jigsaw was one created and published by King, a Dutch manufacturer. I’ve completed many others by this manufacturer since and all have been tricky – even new ones. This is because the card used by King is quite flimsy and many of the pieces fit many of the other pieces – even though they shouldn’t. The boxes are also quite cheaply constructed and I generally have to cellotape the corners to stop pieces from falling out.

RAVENSBURGER

Ravensburger, a German company, have consistently produced well-made jigsaws on good card and which click together in a quite satisfying way. The most recent one to be completed was a scene from a 1960’s village green. https://flic.kr/p/UDQqbb. All of the puzzles have been challenging and all quite colourful.

GIBSONS

Gibsons is a British family run company based in Surry. I’ve experienced a range of quality from Gibsons, but the more recent examples have approached that of Ravensburger.

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I have my own Flicker Album of jigsaws and am also a member of the Flickr Jigsaw Group, which displays a vast array of jigsaw puzzles from around the world.

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Now that I am semi-retired and have more time on my hands, I find myself completing more and more jigsaws. When we visit Spain, I tend to have less time as we are out and about more, but we have a room there where the jigsaw can be left out and sat at for a few minutes at a time. Here in the UK where it is always overcast and dark, I wait for sunnier days or, in winter, make sure I’m sat under the brightest lights (which then bring a problem of too much reflection – but ….).

My board is from https://www.theworks.co.uk/ and folds away whenever I need the space.

Resources

  1. http://figur8.net/dream/2014/03/14/what-are-the-brain-benefits-of-jigsaw-puzzles/
  2. http://www.ebay.com/gds/How-Puzzles-Help-the-Mind-/10000000177633935/g.html
  3. http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/The_Healing_Power_of_Jigsaw_Puzzles.html
  4. https://www.unforgettable.org/blog/what-are-the-benefits-of-dementia-jigsaw-puzzles/
  5. https://www.ravensburger.com/uk/start/index.html
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibsons_Games
  7. https://www.ravensburger.com/uk/start/index.html
  8. https://gibsonsgames.co.uk/

Memory Test

I took my mum for a memory test yesterday.

She’s eighty-seven.

Sadly, my mum has been slowly losing her ability to remember certain things, over an extended period of time – probably for about three years. She copes with most things on a daily basis, with help! Without my dad, I suspect that she would have tremendous difficulty coping with day to day things like cooking and eating. This isn’t to say that she isn’t ‘all there’, she is: she takes part in discussions (when she can hear – her hearing aid is not always fully loaded and ‘on’) and retains a wicked sense of humour.

Memory_Process

However, despite not wanting outside help (“David, whilesoever as I can manage, I want no one else coming in here to help**) my dad has been asking the doctor if there’s anything they can do to help my mum. [I have to say right here that I have THE very lowest opinion of my parents’ doctor, both historically and presently]. The result, after a fair amount of nagging is this memory test.

Dad didn’t want to go with my mum as he felt that he would get too upset, which I suppose, after sixty-six years of marriage, is understandable. Also see ** above. So, the original appointment having been when we flew to Spain in March, I visited the centre, rearranged the date, and off we popped yesterday.

Word Art

Mum hated the idea of going (I hesitate to say that she was terrified); she accused my dad of going behind her back and of being sneaky (by asking me to go with her instead of him).  Also: “no one told me about this! I’m not losing my memory, I’m ok!” etc. Yet, once there, having been assured for the umptieth time that I would go ‘in’ with her, she was lovely.  She was calm and had no worries. Once the young (very pregnant) nurse had introduced herself and directed us up to her room, mum was the personification of ‘nice old lady’.

elephant-1090828_1280She answered all of the questions as honestly as she knew how and seemed to feel no pressure at all throughout the full hour of questioning. On the standard test, she got 59% (the standard being 85% ish) and for me it was easy to see exactly where she was losing ‘it’. Mental sums and short term memory tasks were very poor, but at longer term knowledge (that is a penguin, that is a kangaroo etc.) she was much better.

She still thinks that she has no problem remembering things (I haven’t had sugar in my tea for forty-five years – yet I’m asked every time we visit) and insists she’s ok with money; but she’s not.

However, she wasn’t fazed by having to go, soon, for a brain scan and then, afterwards, to see a specialist doctor. But those are hurdles to cross further down the line.

What do we hope to get from this?

I’m not sure.

References:

Pics:

Resources

India, again

What can I say about India, that I haven’t said before?

Not much!

pani-puriIt bustles. (It REALLY bustles). Although where we are based this time, out on the outskirts of the city proper, it doesn’t bustle quite as much. It still takes a brave man or woman to cross the road at most times of the day – something that seems to be achieved with ease by the locals but which fills me with dread.

It smells. There is such a variety of smells too, from the rich and sweetly scented to the downright sewery pongs of open drain networks. Now we’ve spent a little time here, I think we realise that the running water (smelly running water) is pump-out from the many building sites up and down the road. It looks like the have reached the water table in the site next to us and are pumping the water out to build foundations.

You walk in the road. Most of the pavements we have to use on our 10-15 minute walk to work either don’t exist, or might have done at one time but have fallen into disrepair. Dust is everywhere and is kicked up by the relentless turbulence of passing traffic. Along our route, there are various commercial outlets – it’s difficult to use the term ‘shops’ because whereas some ARE shops in the traditional Western sense, others are tiny (tiny!) sheds with the vendor’s goods laid out on (for example) a carpet, or hand carts piled high with all sorts of things: grapes seem to be popular just now, we’ve seen a number of carts piled high with tiny green grapes. (There’s even an unrefrigerated pork shop!).

There’s rubbish everywhere. In-between those commercial outlets, in what appears to be no-man’s-land, is rubbish. Not necessarily smelly rubbish but all kinds of other detritus. Certainly, much of the broken pavement can be found in the rubbish piles, but there’s also bits of iron, old boxes, trailing wires, bags of unspecified garbage waiting (forlornly) for pick up and, in one place, huge piles of paper. In fact, I’ve now seen, several times, a man sat tying up sheaves of papers – so I guess that the piles of paper are his and that one day a truck will come along and take it away after paying him a small pittance for collecting it. No one says that the locals are not entrepreneurial.

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I suppose all that suggests that I don’t like it here – but nothing can be further from the truth. 

This is my third visit and I’m still fascinated by India and by the Indian people. See previous posts:

I cannot comment on the countryside as I’ve not really seen any. On each visit to Bangalore we have travelled from the airport, which is miles outside the city proper, to our hotel and not really seen anything other than urbanisation and cityscape. The city is HUGE. The third largest population in India (some fact sites tell us) and it is still growing very, very quickly.

scaffoldOur hotel is surrounded by building projects.  On all sides there are cranes, banging machinery and some of the ricketiest scaffolding you’ve ever seen. From the roof terrace, there is not a direction I can look in that does not have building work going on (hence the dust).

We see workmen scrambling along the scaffolding and wonder how they don’t fall off. I suppose it’s some improvement in health and safety that they always have a clip-on harness while they do this but – who knows.

 

Almost two months

It’s now early February and I’m nearing the end of my sixty fifth birthday celebrations. After the UK celebrations, I decided I would spend two months in Spain. That time is almost up.

It’s been a fabulous stay, with friends popping in from time to time and a break (a big break) from the UK winter weather.

Following the celebrations at home, we set off on 12th December to stay in the Premier Inn at Heald Green, close to Manchester Airport. We arrived here in Torreblanca on the 13th https://dsugdenholidays.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/winter-201617/ and spent the Christmas and New Year period on our own, mainly just Sharon and me. Early on, she took me for a great day out in Malaga, on a food tour https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2016/12/24/malaga-food-tour/ . See also: http://devourmalagafoodtours.com/

We also went for lots of walks. For example: up and down the hill lots of times; to and from Fuengirola, Los Boliches or Torreblanca (quite often!). We also caught the train to Torremolinos and walked back to Benalmadena a couple of times.

I’ve written elsewhere about our walks up and around the hills behind the apartment for exploration. See:

fullsizerender-3Michelle came up from Gibraltar one day before Christmas and we took her up to Mijas before deciding it was too cold up there and coming back down to Los Boliches and eating in Mason Salvador. She came up to see us again early in the New Year and we took her for a day out in Malaga. As in all the subsequent visits (with JT, DT and Tony, as well as with Martin and Lin), we visited the marina, the castle (Castillo de Gibralfaro) and the city itself, sampling some of the places Sharon and I had enjoyed on the food tour.

Sharon had to return to the UK for a couple of weeks on 12th January and while she was away, friends came over and stayed with me.

3-amigosJohn (JT) came out to visit first and we went more or less straight down to Gibraltar to see Michelle (his daughter) and we spent the day there with friends and shopping. Michelle cooked a delightful Pork Fillet Wellington for dinner – splendid.  John’s brother David (DT) came out on the Sunday to stay in 916 and Tony (TT) flew in on the Tuesday; so, there was quite a crossover of friends whilst Sharon was back in the UK. We ‘did’ Malaga again and walked up to Mijas (twice, once with JT and Dt and again then, with TT – we also walked back – which nearly broke me J )

Most evenings we ate out, but one rainy evening, the weather was so bad that we decided to come straight back and ‘eat in’. This was probably the best meal of their stay; we had all sorts of food, DT cooked steak, I cooked Tortilla and we emptied our fridges of other cold foods and salads (and beer).

three-amigos

Sharon arrived back the same day that Lin and Martin arrived to stay with us for a week. During that week, we had trips to Mijas, to Malaga and to Gibraltar where Michelle, again did us proud. She drove us onto The Rock and gave us a magnificent tour, showing us viewing points and time to see the marching re-enactment of the ceremony of the keys. http://www.visitgibraltar.gi/event/re-enactment-association-saturday-march/187. We had a late lunch in La Linea before setting off back before it was too dark.

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So that’s it. All visitors arrived home safely and we depart on Sunday.  Back again soon.

Malaga Food Tour

As I said in a previous post, this is my birthday month.

Sharon’s ‘surprise’ gift to me was a Food, wine and history walking tour of Malaga (seeing as we’re down here for Christmas anyway). It was a surprise inasmuch as I only knew that on a particular day we had to catch a particular train from Torreblanca, to be able to present ourselves in the Plaza de la Constitución at 10:30am prompt.  31467462750_82c0fe75d0_n

We were met by Susanne, our guide and were joined by Mike from Manchester.

So just the three of us on the tour – which made it so much better than it might have been with lots more people. Sharon had booked with a company called Devour Spain – they also do tours of Madrid, Seville and Barcelona.

The trip starts with a short history of Malaga’s varying population from the ancient Phoenicians through Romans, Moors and the current Christian occupation. This was then used to pin the different dishes and tastes we went through during our 3½ – 4-hour tour.

We started with (slightly late for me) breakfast at Café Central, just on the corner of the square.

coffee-cupWe were told about the owner’s history and how he came to serve 10 (ten!) different sizes and styles of coffee. We had Pitufo con tomate and churros with our coffee. I had largo. All the coffees come in cups or glasses marked with a percentage – to show that you have been served exactly what you ordered.

Following breakfast we took a stroll to Malaga’s main market: Mercado de Atarazanas where we visited two stalls for extended tastings and more history. Our first tasting stop was the Cristóbal Rios olive stall (stand 241-248).  We tasted three types of olive (but I cannot remember their names – sorry), all varying in strength and taste, along with fried  marcona almonds and locally dried moscatel raisins. These were all delicious.

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Our next stop was at El Niño, still inside the market (stand 187-189). Here we were given a taste of sweet Malaga muscatel wine and a plate of cold cutsJ  There was a tasty, hard goats cheese, Iberian ham, Serrano ham, chorizo and salchichón. It was great to actually have both hams on the same plate, so I could see and taste the difference – and THERE IS a difference! Serrano ham is a much milder flavour and has much less fat than the prized Iberian product. Iberian ham is much fattier, tastier and deeper in flavour – as it should be given the way the pigs are bred. Often known as pata negra, these hams can be seen as different from serrano simply by having black feet. The two sausages were ok, but tend to be much nicer  when cooked.

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Having had our fill of market produce we took a fairly good stroll to the other side of town to Mainake, a specialist wine merchant. Here we tasted three local Andalusian wines that were unusually dry (rather than the more normal sweet Malaga wines). One white was to Sharon’s taste but too Retsina-ish for me, and then two very young red wines which were, once again, not to my taste.

Lunch was taken at Mesón Mariano in the city centre. We were presented with an amuse bouche of sorts, which was then followed by four entirely different tapas and a single sweet. The restaurant specialises in artichoke dishes and so we started with an artichoke dish: Alcachofas en salsa (it actually had a different name, but looked like this), then we had Boquerones simply coated in seasoned flour and fried. Boquerones are a small white anchovy local to Malaga. Someone from Malaga might be known as a Boquerón.

We then had a tuna dish that was delicious, but what it was called and what the sauce was made of is now beyond me as I was too engrossed with the previous two dishes. Our final tapa was a plate of Albondigas in a local almond sauce.  I like the sauce, but the meatballs were too big and the texture too doughy for my taste.  Our postres (dessert) was a local speciality: Leche frito. This is condensed milk that is friend and topped with a nougat (turrón) ice cream. That was DIFFERENT.

That was it – our tour was over, but it had been a delight. Excellently led by Susanne.

We stayed over in Malaga and had breakfast once again at Café Central. This time we were able to order our own food and coffee (and agua del grifo – tap water J)