Monday, April 3, 2017

Sky: Taking the Test

In August 2016, Jane and I take our fateful first trip to the Memory Center, a facility operated by the University of Vermont Medical Center. Here’s how the Center describes what they do:  

“Memory loss can be a serious medical condition…or simply a recurring forgetfulness that affects many of us.To help patients understand their memory condition, the Memory Program at the University of Vermont Medical Center provides evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of age-related memory disorders.”

That sounds OK. I mean they have some ways of reassuring people what kind of memory loss they have. If my family wants me to get checked out…what harm could it do?

And, in truth, my memory is not all that hot these days, but whose isn’t at 66 years? You know, walk into a room and then stand there like a post wondering why, exactly, I’d wanted to go there? Most of us do that, right? Don’t we? C’mon! I seem to remember always doing this, but then again, like I said, my memory today isn’t quite as sharp as always.

I wonder if they do tune-ups at this place. Or, establish a baseline and then do regular assessments or something. Might even be interesting in a way.

So, here we go…

On time, we make our way to the clinic. As we check in, I look over the other people in the reception room. They're a quiet group overall. Everyone's older than me except for a few who I guess are caregivers with their aged parents.

Jane and I are separated. We are each interviewed by a psychologist, and we are both asked about my skills of daily living: How am I doing at dressing myself, eating, getting myself to the toilet? Any car crashes or other trauma lately? If this is how they decide if I have a “serious medical condition," I’m probably in the clear.

Then I’m told there will an hour-long neurological exam to test my cognitive and memory abilities. OK. This is when I rise and shine. I’ve always been a “good tester” in school, and and now I’m feeling pretty confident about this one, clearly a major part of the assessment.

This test is when they sort me…ACE it then!
This I can do… these are my skills
Sure enough, it’s easy….(mostly)
“What am I holding?”
“Uh, that’s a Pen!”
“What is the weather today?”
“What season is this?”

This stuff is what they post on the walls for the droolers in so-called nursing homes!
How about: “What am I doing here?” 
How about something at least a little challenging?
“Copy this drawing”
“And this one”
“And this one”
“And this one”
Still easy, but getting harder
“And this one”
Easy, but…
“And this one”
Uh - oh…impossibly 3D, all this Detail…SHIT… It takes me three tries to get even close…hmmm

After a few more hard ones: “Now, draw a clock”
HAH!! I’m ready for this !! I’ve learned that Alzheimer's people can’t draw clocks for anything….
and I’d practiced at home…absolutely No Sweat !
Now, how about some extra credit for confidence  and speed ?

Do I really need to be here?

She wants to know what this phrase means: “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” I’m sorely tempted to tell her one of my favorite jokes, the one about the jungle king that ends, tragically: “People in grass houses shouldn’t stow thrones.” 

But something tells me this is not a great time to be a wise-ass. After all, she is trying to evaluate my brain. I don’t want her taking points off for a bad attitude.

Soon the test is almost over. My tester (aka staff psychometrist) tells me a long involved story with numerous characters having numerous adventures that get more and more long and involved. Of course, I’m expected to repeat them all back. Then a long list of numbers to memorize. More and more, until I’m falling on my face in frustration. For a break I get to count backwards from 100 by sevens.

Next, I’m instructed to fold a piece of paper lengthwise, set it on the floor, then pick it up and place it on the desk.

And for a grand finale, she wants to hear me tell her back her convoluted story of 15 minutes ago.



  1. Sky, I admire your courage for taking this test. This has to be something you'd both want to know and not want to know, at the same time.

    You sure do remember a lot of details of the test. And like you say, who doesn't walk into a room and forget why they're there?

    My mother had Alzheimer's. As you said, aging parents. Now we are reaching that age. Many of us will have it. By the time my mother was diagnosed, she was not able to understand or accept it. It is very generous of you to share your experience.

  2. So what was the story she told? You may not remember(haha), but was just wondering.....
    I seriously know that I couldn't count backwards by 7's from 100.......

  3. I don't think I would have done well on any of those tests. uh oh...