The extraordinarily lovely youngest daughter of a matriarch in her eighties who lived with the latter, she with the clearest brown eyes and smoothest white pinkish skin called me up one night complaining that her mother had been crying incessantly (sometimes with tears she was scared her Mommy might get dehydrated and sometimes without). She said she, (the daughter) had been irritated by all the sobbing and whining. Her mother would cry before breakfast only to hush while eating breakfast and then cry again until the next meal. This cycle went on and on and on for a week until she could no longer endure the senseless sobbing which interrupted the daughter’s sleep she had to take a leave from her work in the family corporation.
I went to visit them the following morning. The daughter was seated on an ottoman in one corner of the high ceiling house, cupping her lovely face now with furrowed forehead, with both her hands, her hair in disarray – an epic portrait of helplessness and desperation.
The matriarch indeed was crying loudly, a white handkerchief on one hand which she occasionally used to wipe her eyes and nose, while seated on an antique wooden rocking chair in the living room in their ancestral house on one of the pre-war streets in the city. I introduced myself and she looked up to me still crying as she shook my hand. I sat beside her and asked how she was. She said she was fine, an answer I could barely make out because her staccato voice was hoarse as until this time she was still crying. I said I didn’t think she was fine as she was still crying and I wanted to know the reason why.
She replied ‘I want to go back to Manila’. ‘I want to go back to Manila’ she emphasized as she banged both arms on the arm rests of her rocking chair.
By then she was sobbing heavily, uncontrollably. I did not know what to do. I patted her on the back and gently but firmly told her that going home to Manila wouldn’t be possible because the airline wouldn’t allow crying ladies on the plane. She turned to me and looked at me intently and said ‘Is that true Doctor?’ I nodded in affirmation. ‘That is true Ma’am’.
I beamed with pride and stifled sense of achievement because at this time she stopped crying.
After one week, one week – she suddenly stopped crying!
The room came to a hush. Even I stopped breathing for a moment, looking at her with disbelief and wide eyed anticipation.
And then after a long, thoughtful pause she said ‘Ok, if they won’t let me cry on the plane, can I take the boat?’
I was floored by her answer and there she went crying again.
I stayed with the daughter all morning and decided that it was time to start the patient on anti-dementia treatment which the family had been delaying.
N.B. Most patients with Alzheimer’s Disease always have this ‘wanting to go back home’ usually to their home province where they spent the early years of their lives or even if they are already home.
DISCLAIMER: The identities of the subjects in the vignettes and other stories on this blog are intended to be ‘anonymous’ to protect the patient and their families and keep the doctor-patient confidentiality or fiduciary relationship. The persona cited here are not meant to be blind items or fodder for gossip. My lips are zipped in that department. Some of their identities and circumstances have been altered but the nuances of their medical condition are fact and not hidden behind veiled medical-clinical fiction. Think Oliver Sacks’ ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat’. Okay, it’s like comparing Roederer Cristal rose wine with vin d’ table but I know you see the drift.