Neuropsychological Assessment

A sudden event and worsening neurological symptoms in my father forced me and my family to reach out to a specialized neurologist. This doctor has done extensive research in movement disorders.

Meeting a new doctor

As many know, starting with a new neurologist requires new information and getting this neurologist’s stamp on my father’s existing diagnosis.

This meant the neurologist that was new to my father’s file wanted a better understanding of his diagnosis and what stage he is at. He referred him to receive a neuropsychological assessment.

Even from its name, I knew this test would be extensive, exhausting, but comprehensive in giving us the best understanding of where my father is at in his Parkinson's disease (PD) journey.

Scheduling the test

For many patients with neurological disorders this test is nothing new. However, for my father who has only ever been a patient with cardiac issues, this assessment was going to be more challenging. The exam is supposed to last 4 to 6 hours.

Besides not being a morning person, my father’s stamina for activities that last longer than 30 minutes is limited. He gets winded quickly and because he sleeps poorly at night, most likely requires a nap.

Because my father is not a morning person, I got the clinic to schedule the assessment for 11 am. The exam only happens in the city which my parents live 40 minutes away from.

This allowed ample time for my mother to get there on time and my father to feel rested. A lot of thought and planning goes into appointment timings when scheduling them for your elder parents folks.

Undergoing the exam

The exam began with a neuropsychologist reviewing my father’s history and discussing his current symptoms. My father is a pretty good sweet talker with his medical providers. In the beginning of his PD journey, getting a true understanding of where my father was at in his journey was very difficult.

Anytime he was asked a question that tested his memory, he would make a joke and the medical provider would laugh and move on to the next question This constant back and forth showed us, his family, that not only was he not ready to accept his diagnosis, he was also making it extra hard for his medical team to gauge where he was it in his diagnosis.

However, this test succeeds where those other tests fail. After an extensive discussion about his symptoms and journey, only to be reported by him - not my mother, the neuropsychologist and assistant/skilled technician administered a series of tasks.

These tasks are simple enough for anyone without a neurological disorder. These specific set of tasks are designed to assess and measure my father’s cognitive abilities.

Feeling a mix of emotions

As we expected, my father went very slowly in this test. What we did not expect is that he went so slow, they ended up having to split the exam up over 2 days. My mother and father had to come back the next day. We do not have the results yet from this assessment, but we walked away from the exam feeling a couple of different things as a family.

One, sad for my father because it must’ve been tiresome and exhausting to be put through such extensive testing. Two, at peace because soon we’d be able to really understand where he is at and how much we could do to help him. But lastly, we also felt, and continue to feel, a sense of dread - dread that no information will come out of this exam that we don’t already know.

All the tests and assessments in the world can’t slow down the PD or take it away. No amount of knowing will change his and our reality. For now, we just pray whatever information we do get from the results, we put to good use and help him manage as best as possible.

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