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FROM THE EDITOR'S PEN / For the Sake of Mary / Editorial List

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Gary Barg
For the Sake of Mary

On a recent cross-country flight, I sat next to a doctor who was returning from his niece's funeral.

He told me he had been worried about his sister's mental health even before her daughter had taken ill. Mary always picked him up at the airport when he would visit; but in recent years, she had stopped because she was losing her way in the city where she had lived her entire life. Her family was concerned, but no one knew what steps to take.

Mary's city is home to a leading memory disorder center, and I told him to make sure she went for a neurological evaluation as soon as possible. The family was both able to and interested in helping Mary; but even with all of the health care professionals among them, they were still paralyzed about what steps to take and in what order to take them.

I told him the family's actions would be similar to a physician's medical plan: Diagnose, Assess and Prescribe. First, the diagnosis was made (There was something amiss); then the assessment of what steps to take (What are the available diagnostic options and community resources?); and finally, the prescription (How do you help your loved one realize that an assessment is made not to impede independence, but to be able to retain as much as possible? What are the family plans if the results show signs of a cognitive disorder?).

Most important is to put a timeline to these steps. The family had been discussing her possible memory challenges for at least four years. Our conversation must have crystallized things for him, because he said the family would spend this coming weekend putting a plan in place.

If they do, I can guarantee that this will be done for the sake of the entire family, not only for Mary.

Gary Barg

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