Meet Dr. Mullinix
Dr. Mullinix was in practice for 36 years, in Wichita, in adult neurology, which includes a lot of different neurologic diseases. The most common complaint from patients was migraines, but he also dealt with a number of other things, such as neck pain, and a variety of diseases. Some of the top diseases or conditions that affect senior citizens in Wichita include Parkinson’s disease, strokes, seizures, and the one that bothers most people is dementia.
“Dementia” is a broad term that means they lost previously known information. This can include a variety of things, including judgment, organizational skills, as well as memory. There are a variety of causes: frontal temporal dementia; Lewy body dementia; multi infarct dementia, for example, but the biggest subgroup is Alzheimer’s disease, and it’s the one that we fear the most.
People fear dementia because it is genetic, and it is a progressive disease. There are some early warning signs that a family member or loved one might notice. At that point a physician be called in to do a professional evaluation.
Early Warning Signs
Some of the early things to be aware of our little things: difficulty balancing the checkbook, for example, whereas a person always could before; organizing their information for the tax preparer; problems in the kitchen, forgetting recipes that they always used; making mistakes; forgetting to turn off the oven; storing your purse the oven to keep it safe from robbers, and then turning the oven on, forgetting that the purse was there; forgetting appointments; forgetting dates: “Grandma always used to send me a birthday card with five dollars, and now she doesn’t remember my birthday.” Those are your early things: getting lost; forgetting where the car is, in the parking lot; forgetting where the store is, they’ve been to hundreds of times.
Some of these are little things that you wouldn’t really think that much about—and that’s the problem. People often times attribute the symptoms to, “Oh, she’s just getting older,” but they should be taken seriously. As things get worse, the person will have more difficulty with personal hygiene: forgetting or refusing to take a shower, refusing to change clothes, or incontinence.
When to Call the Doctor
Any time that a family member or the patient himself is concerned, or anytime a friend contacts a family member with concerns, needs to be taken seriously, and a physician should be involved. Doctors would much rather see a patient and reassure that person, “You’re fine. There’s nothing wrong with you,” then for the disease to progress until there’s nothing to be done.
There’s been several instances in my career where I’ve had to call a family meeting because I know the person’s financial habits become very distraught about money, and it’s just like anxiety building up. The family said, “Well, they’re just a little forgetful.” Some of the family members noticed some things, and some didn’t, but we got them to talk to a physician. Then they started getting affairs in order, just because of power of attorneys and a lot of things that need to be done.
From what I’ve seen because of the characteristics the people normally have, the worry really increases like balancing checkbooks and things like that, but what I’ve noticed. It’s also things like forgetting to pay bills, or paying the same bill more than once. People with memory difficulties are at great risk for scams, and I’ve seen hundreds of thousands of dollars lost because of scammers.
That’s a whole other topic to talk about, senior scams and fraud, and being taken advantage of with any type of dementia, I think it’s just magnified many, many times on the susceptibility. And you’re seeing it much more than I do, just in my clientele, but it’s really quite sad.
I tell people for years that if they’re concerned that they’re going to develop dementia, and even those who have been diagnosed with early dementia, I strongly recommend that they stay active, physically active, mentally active and socially active. Get off the couch. Turn off the TV, and get moving, and have friends over, even if it’s just for an iced tea. It’s okay. You don’t have to have a fancy meal, but get involved. Get out. Do things. It helps them to manage the disease in some way, and may help with the progression.
I certainly strongly recommend that they stay as active as possible. From a family member’s standpoint, then I ask them to make every effort to keep life on a routine, as best as possible. If they go to the barbershop once a month, make sure it’s the same day of the month. If you go to the grocery store, go to the grocery store on a routine. Go on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Have your life as regimented as possible.
At later stages, people may forget family relationships, and so I ask that they have photos all around the house, of the family members, with tags, “This is your son. This is his wife. These are their children,” so they can look at them and be reminded.