Today, I worked for a client who is 91. The last time I worked for him, he didn’t quite understand what I was trying to explain to him. Then, he called once and left a message on my machine at about 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. He recently called and I set up an appointment for today. In some respects, he still seems quite sharp. But, in others, he doesn’t.
Today, I did some things that needed fixed and then he wanted me to explain email and also printing. I explained them several times. After I finished, I thought I would talk to him for a few minutes. I saw a desk plaque which read “President and C.E.O. and a few pictures of him in a bank setting. I asked which bank he worked at and he told me.
I asked, “How long did you work there?” He got a puzzled look on his face and I asked, “A long time?”
At that point, he replied, “Yes….. over 83 years. Wait. No. That’s not right. I can’t remember.”
He pondered a little while longer and then said,” Over 100 years.” Then he paused and said, “No. That’s not right. I can’t remember. I’m embarrassed to say that I can’t remember.” He had a look which was a mixture of embarrassment, fear, and sadness. I tried to steer the conversation away from the topic for a moment, to keep it flowing so that he could think about it and answer at a later point. But, he returned to it, saying that he was afraid he was getting Alzheimer’s disease.
I said, “I think you would have had it already if you were going to get it. I think that it has an earlier onset than your age. I think that it’s probably normal memory loss for your age.”
“That makes me feel much better,” he said. “I do my exercises and try to keep myself active.”
“Has anyone ever recommended memory exercises for you?”
“No. Where would I get something like that? Would the library have it?”
“I think the library would have books on memory exercises that you could try.”
So, we chatted a little more about that and I was about to leave. He was still sitting in the chair and he said, “That still bothers me that I can’t remember how long I worked there.” By this time, he was welling up with tears and he said, “Mark, I want to thank you for taking the time and having patience. People don’t take the time. I appreciate it. You have been nice and you have shown empathy. And I want to thank you. You’ve taken the time and been good to me.”
I shook his hand and we said our goodbyes and I left.
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