Measuring Mental Decline

My mom’s mother had Alzheimer’s. The last time I saw my grandmother, when my mom introduced me to her, she lifted her withered arms in joy, saying, “Oh! I have a granddaughter!” I was thirty years old.

My mom’s memory has been slipping for some time. Having witnessed what happened to my grandmother, I wanted some way to measure my mother’s decline. I wanted data, not a vague wondering if she was worse than she was the last time or maybe I’m just imagining things. I wanted a way to define her mental status for myself, and eventually, for others who could help me know what to do.

The acronym for the St. Louis University Mental Status test is the SLUMS test, which would make me chuckle if we weren’t talking about my mother.

In 2019, I asked my mom if I could give her the test. She was resistant. We each shared our perspectives. I wanted “a baseline.” She wanted to never hear her result. We agreed and did the test. We repeated it in 2021, and again on this recent visit. I have data.

The data helps me manage my feelings about the changes in my relationship with my mother. It tells me that even though what I am doing feels strange—like having my phone ping me every time a transaction hits her bank account—it’s the right thing.

Information is power.

And sometimes, relief.

Chewing the Cud of Good

two pink berries in a brown-green field

Thankful for three sunny days in a row!

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