We are a little early for Ralph’s third of five sessions in an Emory University study on visual aids on whether certain visual clues will improve memory retention for those with MCI/Early Alzheimer’s. (There are so many studies out there right now and they all need volunteer subjects. But not every patient qualifies to be in a study. MRIs are usually required and there are often other restrictions as well but it is worth going to the Alzheimer’s Association website to check out what studies are going on in your neighborhood.)
Ralph’s study is concentrated over a two-week period. Ralph says the “homework” aides the researcher has recommended don’t help but he has returned willingly enough. I don’t sit in during the sessions but I come alone for moral support and read old magazines in the drab but not uncomfortable waiting room.
This afternoon another couple sits down in the waiting room with us before Ralph gets called in. I size them up: both husband and wife are a little older than us, probably early seventies, casually but tastefully dressed, whispering and smiling at each other with just an edge of nervousness that says they are first timers. She is lively and chatty, he more passive. Like Ralph.
But a few minutes before Ralph goes off with his researcher, another researcher comes for the wife. The husband and I are left together with the dated magazines. As we begin to chat about the weather and the time it took to get to the building, I am dying to bring up the obvious—if both of our spouses are in this study, they must both have the same diagnosis—but I don’t want to intrude on his privacy.
Before I can stop myself the letters M, C, and I are out of my mouth.
Yep, his wife is about a month behind “Ralph” in the process, not necessarily in terms of her degree of cognitive impairment but in terms of when she was diagnosed. She is seeing Doc L’s partner. She has just started the same drug (donezepril) Ralph is on. Her husband’s not sure what comes next.
I am almost giddy as we start comparing notes. There is so much to talk about that I haven’t been able to share with anyone else. Our hour or two together in that dinghy room flies by. I doubt I’ll ever see him again. I don’t know his name.
But for the first time, I realize I am not alone