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Doctor.
June 18, 2014 12:13 PM   Subscribe

On Monday, journalist Conor Dougherty tweeted a picture of a transcript from a 1984 deposition where, upon being asked if his mother preferred to be addressed as "Miss" or "Mrs.", she responded, "Doctor." It was retweeted more than 2000 times. Here's the backstory.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (64 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite

 
Man.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:17 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Tweet is awesome. Article is awesomer.
posted by 256 at 12:21 PM on June 18 [5 favorites]


so sad :(
posted by rebent at 12:22 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Damn. Just - damn.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:26 PM on June 18 [4 favorites]


HOLY SHIT THIS IS MY LIFE RIGHT NOW.

Dad-in-law has Alzheimer's and was a pretty brilliant engineer, inventor, carpenter and artist. In the last two months, he has taken apart 2 French easels, lost half of the parts and can't figure out how to put them together despite having invented a solar car. Also, with stories, he fills things in (like the Facebook thing). He somehow decides that he has been selected for an award or on his bad days, that he has been selected for persecution.

It's really draining for me. It's even more exhausting and sad for my husband. For his wife, it is traumatic on a daily basis and she is not dealing with it well at all. For him...I don't know. I think it's scary sometimes and sometimes, I think he just doesn't know what he doesn't know, so it's really not a big deal.

Alzheimer's sucks.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:28 PM on June 18 [55 favorites]


I used to work for an immigration lawyer. While I was there we had these clients, a married couple, both medical doctors, who had recently moved to America from their home country. To protect the innocent, let's say their names were Dr. Lady and Dr. Dude. They referred to themselves (in correspondence, on the phone, etc) as Dr. Lady and Dr. Dude. My lawyer boss decided it was too confusing to refer to this couple by both their separate doctor names, so requested that the employees call them Dr. and Mrs. Dude. We railed about how sexist that was, so our boss relented and requested that we instead call her Mrs. Dr. Dude.

Aaaaarrghhhh.
posted by phunniemee at 12:30 PM on June 18 [17 favorites]


My mother-in-law has Alzheimer's. My wife sometimes says, after we visit, that she misses her mother. I don't have the heart to show her this story.
posted by sfred at 12:30 PM on June 18 [6 favorites]


sfred - show her the story. It helps to know you're not alone in all of this.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:36 PM on June 18 [9 favorites]


This story is one of the reasons I fear Alzheimer's more than just about any other illness. Cancer just kills you, a stroke you at least have a chance of recovering from. Hell, even being in a coma is better. The idea of being emptied of my *self* with just enough awareness left to be frightened or angry, brrrr.
posted by tavella at 12:36 PM on June 18 [12 favorites]


Tavella, not to diminish the horror of Alzheimer's, nor derail, but, perhaps you've never had cancer.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:39 PM on June 18 [5 favorites]


My lawyer boss decided it was too confusing to refer to this couple by both their separate doctor names, so requested that the employees call them Dr. and Mrs. Dude.

Getting on a plane a couple of years ago with my husband, boarding passes showed our names in the form of Lastname-Firstname-Title. Both of us had 'Dr' as the title. Attendant checking our passes at the gate: "Welcome aboard, Dr [Hislast]. Welcome aboard, Mrs [Mylast]." Sigh.
posted by Catseye at 12:39 PM on June 18 [3 favorites]


No, I haven't, but I have seen people die of both, and I will still take pain and suffering and the ability to make my own choice over how to die over years of slowly being stripped of everything that makes me a person, while retaining an understanding that something is wrong, that I used to be different. Cancer is shitty; Alzheimer's is shittier.
posted by tavella at 12:43 PM on June 18 [17 favorites]


Tavella, not to diminish the horror of Alzheimer's, nor derail, but, perhaps you've never had cancer.

Not that it's a competition--and God alone knows there are awful, awful deaths by cancer--but my Mum died of cancer and my Dad died with a dementia very similar to Alzheimer's and if I were given the option I'd take my mother's death every single time. Dad died little by little, day by day, for years. At the end he didn't know who any of us were or where he was or why people kept trying to prevent him from leaving these places he was obviously Not Supposed To Be In. It was a bitter, comfortless and agonizing process. My mother was physically miserable, to be sure, but she knew she was loved, she knew who she was and what was happening to her, she knew that we all knew that she loved us.

Yeah, fuck cancer, to be sure, but dementia is just the worst.
posted by yoink at 12:44 PM on June 18 [29 favorites]


On a similar note, Lauren Conrad was answering questions submitted by listeners on a radio show:
(reading question)
"'What's your favorite position?'

"Hmmmm... CEO."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:45 PM on June 18 [8 favorites]


Sophie1 - I just don't know. Sometimes we need just to not think about it for a day or two, and that's where my reluctance comes from.
posted by sfred at 12:47 PM on June 18


Tavella, not to diminish the horror of Alzheimer's, nor derail, but, perhaps you've never had cancer.

I've had cancer twice and -- just personally, I can't speak for anyone else who's gone through it -- I'm 100% with Tavella. I'd much rather go from a third bout of cancer than go from seeing what Alzheimer's did to take away several of my family members.
posted by scody at 12:48 PM on June 18 [12 favorites]


sfred - oh, absolutely. Show it to her another day, but show it to her.

Since we live 3 blocks from the in-laws new assisted living, we're there almost every day either trying to prevent a catastrophic event or trying to deescalate one. Mom tends to escalate them and it sometimes feels like she does it on purpose just to have us come over and rescue her from the madness. We've bought music players, two French easels, countless puzzles, boxes of cookies and cartons of ice cream on our way to make peace between them and some quiet in his raving mind.

It works for minutes, sometimes hours and on blessed occasions, it works for days at a time where he is euphoric and childlike. And then relatively nothing will happen and it will set him off in a persecuted, raving madness.

I am only grateful that we don't have children and that we are only taking care of them.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:56 PM on June 18


I am presuming that no one here has personally both died of cancer and had dementia, and no one here (presumably) can channel spirits, this seems like a really pointless, not to mention cruel, debate.
posted by muddgirl at 12:59 PM on June 18 [40 favorites]


This really gets to me because this woman is only two years younger than my mother, who is an MD and would have had the same response - she's always hated when people call her "Mrs." or address things to Dr and Mrs like of course the man must the the doctor if there's one in the household. She's healthy, still working and has all her faculties and this almost makes me want to call her to bask in the warm glow of her being angry about not being called "Dr." appropriately.

Great article, great story.
posted by sweetkid at 1:06 PM on June 18 [6 favorites]


I am presuming that no one here has personally both died of cancer and had dementia, and no one here (presumably) can channel spirits, this seems like a really pointless, not to mention cruel, debate.

No one who ever died of anything lived to tell what it was like (with a few debatable exceptions). That doesn't mean it's either wrong, cruel or illegitimate to hold opinions about which of the many possible deaths we may face we would prefer and which we might choose to avoid if at all possible. People should talk far more often and more openly about end-of-life choices than they do and those choices can only be informed by the opinions of the living.
posted by yoink at 1:06 PM on June 18 [13 favorites]


No one who ever died of anything lived to tell what it was like (with a few debatable exceptions). That doesn't mean it's either wrong, cruel or illegitimate to hold opinions about which of the many possible deaths we may face we would prefer and which we might choose to avoid if at all possible. People should talk far more often and more openly about end-of-life choices than they do and those choices can only be informed by the opinions of the living.

But surely the best way to frame that in a large discussion is not "this one is worse", tempting as that is. (Several unpleasant things run in my family; my mother - who is incredibly fortunate to have my father's care - is in the late stages of one now. I have definite opinions about my future, and no regrets about not having kids.)
posted by Frowner at 1:12 PM on June 18 [3 favorites]


Look, cancer and dementia are both pretty bad, but are they really as bad as being eaten alive by a shark?

My argument here: you would be being eaten alive by a shark
posted by mightygodking at 1:18 PM on June 18 [11 favorites]


yeah, discussing your own mortality and your feelings towards different ways to go seems fine and i agree that it should be discussed more - but telling someone else how to feel in a finger wagging "you've never had cancer" way is pretty gross.
posted by nadawi at 1:21 PM on June 18 [4 favorites]


My argument here: you would be being eaten alive by a shark

Mom died of cancer and dementia took grandma. Given what I saw, I'll take swift death by apex predator any day.
posted by griphus at 1:24 PM on June 18 [25 favorites]


But surely the best way to frame that in a large discussion is not "this one is worse", tempting as that is

How can one offer opinions about which is better without offering opinions about which is worse? How can one make informed decisi ons about, say, whether or not one should opt for heroic measures in an end-of-life scenario unless you listen to opinions about whether dying at home surrounded by loved ones is "better" or "worse" than dying in a hospital bed drugged out of your mind and hooked up to a bunch of machines?

No one is saying "geez, cancer, that's a breeze, how dare you even compare your sufferings to those of people whose loved ones are suffering from Alzheimers!"--that, certainly, would be cruelly dismissive. But it is, indeed, worth knowing that many (not all, but many) people who have intimate knowledge of both forms of dying found more to dread in Alzheimers than in cancer. Clearly everyone's mileage can and does vary, but in the end we can only be informed by hearing as many honest opinions from as many people as possible.

Personally, I know that if I'm diagnosed with what my Dad had and if I'm still able to make choices for myself at that time I'm going to seek some sort of early exit. Per contra if I'm diagnosed with my mum's disease (and assuming medical science has made no new advances in that area by that time) I know that I simply won't bother seeking anything but palliative care (most of her physical sufferings until the very end were the result of the treatment, not the disease--and in the end they hardly prolonged her life). Given that--genetically--I have more reason to fear both of these fates than most, I'm glad to have sufficient information about them to be able to form some kind of response-plan in advance. You say, too, that you 'have definite opinions about your future' as a result of your experience. Well, that's great. But those opinions didn't come from talking to the spirits of the departed--they came from you experience with the living. And others could, potentially, benefit from hearing about those experiences too and drawing on them to form their own "definite opinions about their futures."

But none of that useful sharing of information and collective learning about how to approach these end-of-life decisions can possibly happen if we subscribe to some bizarre (and bizarrely arbitrary) ethical principle that says that we have to pretend that every single death is just as good (or just as bad) as any other.
posted by yoink at 1:24 PM on June 18 [12 favorites]


about which of the many possible deaths we may face we would prefer and which we might choose to avoid if at all possible

Except dementia isn't (usually) terminal, save for the ordinary way that we are all terminal. "I'd rather my relative die quickly and painfully than live longer with their physical health but with dementia" seems like a really shitty thing to say, to me. There are several studies which show that people are pretty bad at estimating the quality of life for people with disabilities, or at estimating what their quality of life would be if they developed a disability.

My impression is that, here in America at least, we have been making good steps towards having meaningful conversations about dying and giving people better options for end-of-life care, but I feel like we don't seem to want to talk about that elephant in the room - quality, dignified during life care for people with dementia or other non-terminal disabilities.

I'm not arguing that dementia is a walk in the park, or making any kind of claim as to what I'll feel like when I get older. I frankly have no idea what it's like to face terminal cancer or dementia or heart problems or continual strokes, even though my family members have experienced all of these things.
posted by muddgirl at 1:25 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


My uncle was a well-respected and brilliant doctor. One day he looked at a chart, brought it to the nurse, and demanded to know "why the fuck it was written in Arabic." It wasn't, and he went to his doctor to get all that checked out. He had also been having troubles with his wife (my aunt) and she was considering divorce at the time. He had "turned into an asshole," as she put it, and she couldn't figure out what had gotten into him. What had gotten into him was a collection of protein tangles in his brain and ballooned neurons: Pick bodies.

Pick's disease killed him from the inside out. He would wear a white coat with a stethoscope around his neck and hold a clipboard and scribble nonsense. He thought he was a doctor.

He was a doctor, until he was no longer himself at all.

It was the saddest thing to witness. Almost as sad as watching his mother die in the same assisted-living facility, just months after he did. She had no reason to live anymore, she said, now that he was gone. He was 48.

Thanks for sharing this, even though it made me cry in public.
posted by sockermom at 1:25 PM on June 18 [24 favorites]


I'm in the direct line of fire for both cancer and Alzheimers based on my matrilineal lineage. Having immediately witnessed both for long periods of time, I can say that I would gladly deal with cancer over a slow wipe of my Self.
posted by Paendragon at 1:30 PM on June 18 [3 favorites]


[Guys, sharing stories/experiences is fine but maybe let's let the Which Horrible Disease Is Worse argument itself drop?]
posted by cortex at 1:31 PM on June 18 [27 favorites]


My sister is an MD and one of the things she was psyched about was that, if you care about how Miss Manners says to address wedding invitations (which apparently my sister does, deeply), the only situation in which a woman's name is listed before a man's when addressing a wedding invitation is if the woman is a doctor.

Also, in order of personal preference, my choices are 1) eaten by a shark, 2) cancer, and 3) dementia and/or Alzheimer's. For better or for worse, though, heart attack is possibly more likely than all three and that would probably be my preference.
posted by kat518 at 1:32 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


My dad just got sick and for lack of a better term just faded away, although it took a couple of months. My godmother/cousin, on the other hand, has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's after her doctors spent months eliminating any other possible cause. My wife and I are taking care of her now that she's managed to outlive everyone else in the family and had no children.

I realize now that she's going to be gone before her body will be and it's breaking my heart.
posted by tommasz at 1:36 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


muddgirl: Except dementia isn't (usually) terminal

You are not a medical professional, and you are not correct. This is not a discussion where your assumptions are a good idea to state as "facts".
posted by IAmBroom at 1:47 PM on June 18 [12 favorites]


My dad’s mantra is that mom is losing her memory, not her mind.

I found this line both terrifying and heartbreaking. I've had relatives die of dementia, and watching their essential reasonableness battle with the fact that the disease has made it an incomprehensible, unreasonable universe is part of what made the illness so awful. If it were simply a forgetting, or a descent into a memoryless world, it would have been something else. No, this was watching somebody you love spend huge amounts of time bewildered, struggling to understand their bewilderment, and being deeply troubled by the fact that they can't. It's awful for the person going through it, or, at least, was for my relatives. They were so angry and frustrated and frightened. And it just goes on and on and on, worsening and worsening, so that there are months, years even of this frustration and terror.

I was DNA tested recently and don't have the markers that would indicate much of a risk for Alzheimers. I have never been more frightened of a test result, or more relieved by what I learned. It could still happen, of course, and I dread the thought, but at least my risks are low.

I hear curry helps keep the risk low. That might be nonsense. Still, it gives me an excuse to eat a lot of curry. I want everyone I know to eat curry. They should all live long lives, full of curry, and die without spiralling into a heartbreaking, losing battle between reason and unreason.
posted by maxsparber at 1:49 PM on June 18 [13 favorites]


Doctor Doktor?
Mr Doktor?
Dr. Mr Doktor?
posted by blue_beetle at 1:49 PM on June 18


How can one offer opinions about which is better without offering opinions about which is worse? How can one make informed decisi ons about, say, whether or not one should opt for heroic measures in an end-of-life scenario unless you listen to opinions about whether dying at home surrounded by loved ones is "better" or "worse" than dying in a hospital bed drugged out of your mind and hooked up to a bunch of machines?

Precisely because saying "I would rather die of [X] than [Y] because [reasons reasons reasons] is going to push a lot of people's buttons, bring up ghastly memories, make people who are hurting feel that you're trivializing their mother's struggles with [Y], etc. It tends to derail the conversation when you're in a large and disparate group.

That's very different from a conversation in a small, known group, I think, or a conversation when someone is actually facing very specific medical choices. It's also different from a conversation where people describe things without trying to rank them.

The point is, how do people have effective conversations about stuff that is painful and horrible to contemplate, that some people have been up-close-and-personal with and some people have not? I think that letting the conversation get into comparing enormities is a bad idea - consider how bad conversations go when we try to compare political enormities, right?
posted by Frowner at 2:00 PM on June 18 [7 favorites]


Alzheimer's is a horror, and my heart goes out to anyone dealing with it. I've dealt with it in my own family, to the inevitable tragic end. A close friend is going through it now with his mother, down the street from me.

But the attention-grabbing deposition quotation leading off this story doesn't read to me as "badass." Without knowing her tone or inflection, it could be read as corrective and informational, or it could be read as rude and abrasive, or anywhere in between. I'd like to see the next line in the deposition. I'd be willing to bet it was some form of apology from the attorney for the form of the question. But cutting the transcript off right there, as if time stopped, does nothing but intentionally make it look like though the woman was being oppressed or harassed in some way. It's framed like a snapshot, just to show the error, not the apology. Who among us doesn't have many moments in life that, if so framed, removing any evidence of our apologies or attempts to make amends after having made a stupid mistake, or having said something inadvertently hurtful to someone else, would make us look like complete jerks?

The attorney was asking how the deponent wanted to be addressed. When addressing a man you don't know, 49 times out of 50 it's going to be "Mr." With a woman, the statistically likely forms of desired address are more numerous, so you almost always need to ask, lest you get it wrong. If anything, the fundamental mistake the attorney made was not simply leaving the question open ended. (Or at least, one would think that by 1984, the option "Ms." would have also been a statistically likely choice.) The preliminaries of a deposition are almost always the same, full of standard agreements with opposing counsel, introducing yourself to people you've never met, explaining how a deposition works, and so forth, all accruing into what becomes a sort of standard script in your head. Yes, the transcript makes it sound like the lawyer had momentarily forgotten or was dismissive of the fact that the person being deposed had a Ph.D. Maybe. But I can tell you it's a question that attorney had asked a thousand times, so it's also very possible it may have just come out that way. It's like asking "paper or plastic" for the thousandth time, without realizing this particular person happens to be holding their own canvas grocery bag. It's just a mistake. But again, we don't get to see the apology, or anything that happened next. It seems to me the quotation was framed to inflame.

As an aside, not everyone with a doctorate goes by "Doctor." I know many Ph.D.s who don't expect or insist on being called "Doctor," and among whom the general assumption is that to avoid confusion, that title is generally reserved for M.D.s. One philosophy professor friend of mine affirmatively objects to being called "Doctor," insisting "Mr." is just fine. His reasoning is that there are so many Ph.D.s in his daily life and on his campus that linguistic inflation makes the term hyperformal, if not meaningless, and that otherwise any water-cooler conversation for him becomes mired in "Doctor . . . doctor . . . doctor . . ." greetings, like that tent scene from Spies Like Us.
posted by azaner at 2:01 PM on June 18 [6 favorites]


I am still a bit peeved that getting my Masters degree does not come with the obvious title of "Master".

Jerks.
posted by jillithd at 2:11 PM on June 18 [19 favorites]


I don't think the quotation was meant to inflame. I think it was meant to show that his mom, who is now - let's face it - a fucking shell of herself - was once a doctor. She had an identity. She was a person, a smart, well-educated, hard-worker of a woman. Now she's confused and scared and probably has moments of lucidity but she's never going to be a Doctor again, and that's not by choice - it just is.

My mom is also a PhD (although she isn't really into the whole "being called doctor" thing) and seeing her lose her lucidity would be so heartbreaking I can't even fathom it. It's bringing tears to my eyes just thinking about it. I'd do the same thing if I found what he found in his situation, not to inflame, but to honor my mom's identity when she still had it.
posted by sockermom at 2:11 PM on June 18 [17 favorites]


blue_beetle: "Doctor Doktor?
Mr Doktor?
Dr. Mr Doktor?
"

Doctor Doctor
Gimme the news
I got a
Bad case of lovin' you.

(by Robt Palmer. Which means that the probability is high that the Doctor in question is a woman.)
posted by chavenet at 2:13 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]



She was a Ph.D toxicologist who was testifying as an expert. She said she wanted to be called "Dr," so I don't even know how other people's preferences enter into it.

Yes, it is badass, because women are always having to stand up for themselves and their professional identities especially when they have a very high level of achievement. I don't think we're supposed to like, hate the attorney in this incident but I'm sure Dr. Dougherty got a little thrill out of that moment. It's a good moment.
posted by sweetkid at 2:14 PM on June 18 [37 favorites]


if you care about how Miss Manners says to address wedding invitations (which apparently my sister does, deeply), the only situation in which a woman's name is listed before a man's when addressing a wedding invitation is if the woman is a doctor.

But, but, but...that time we got an invitation addressed to "Mr. and Dr. Michael Straight" is the only time I ever get to see the words "Dr. Michael Straight."
posted by straight at 2:29 PM on June 18 [9 favorites]


My mother is the youngest of 13 kids, and every single one of her siblings (save the one who died from liver cancer) died of Alzheimer's or is in the final stages of Alzheimer's. I try really hard not to constantly look for signs of it in her when I talk to her or see her in person, because I don't ever want to see it, and I'm terrified that one day I'll see just one extra "forgetfulness" thing that will indicate the time has come that it's starting and there's nothing that she or I can do.
posted by xingcat at 2:39 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


My mother has vascular dementia. She requires full-time trained care. She is 89. Her mother died before I was born. My mother no longer recognizes me. Sometimes she will cry, "Why won't Momma come get me?" And I can't help but think, I miss my mother, too, Mom. More than you can know.

One of my coworkers is a woman in her mid-thirties with two young kids. Her mother has early-onset Alzheimer's and is in an assisted living facility, unable to feed or care for herself, at the age of 63. She began showing symptoms in her early 50s. I asked my coworker if she had been tested to see if she carries the early-onset gene. She said no, she didn't want to be tested. I asked why. She looked at me and said simply, "Because it would break me."

And that's the day I cried at work.

Fuck Alzheimer's and fuck dementia and fuck the howling void at the center of our heads.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:56 PM on June 18 [38 favorites]


So, thanks to roomthreeseventeen and Conor Dougherty, I started writing our story today. Maybe one day I'll post it in Projects...
posted by Sophie1 at 3:05 PM on June 18 [10 favorites]


The attorney was asking how the deponent wanted to be addressed. When addressing a man you don't know, 49 times out of 50 it's going to be "Mr." With a woman, the statistically likely forms of desired address are more numerous, so you almost always need to ask, lest you get it wrong. If anything, the fundamental mistake the attorney made was not simply leaving the question open ended. (Or at least, one would think that by 1984, the option "Ms." would have also been a statistically likely choice.)

1) Because they were deposing an expert witness with a PhD in Toxicology and 'Dr.' was an appropriate option.
2) Because it was 1984 and 'Ms.' was an appropriate option.
3) Because the whole reason women started using 'Ms.' is that many of them/us found/find it incredibly demeaning to be classified by their/our marital status in a professional environment.
4) Because "when addressing a man you don't know, 49 times out of 50 it's going to be 'Mr.'"
5) Because unlike your male philosophy professor friend in 2014, a woman with a PhD in Toxicology in 1984 had put up with a whole lot of bullshit from people who didn't respect her credentials every single day of her career. This also holds true for me as a woman with a PhD in Ecology in 2014.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:07 PM on June 18 [37 favorites]


The head secretary where I work is incredibly old fashioned, incredibly good at her job, and incredibly sure that she is right about everything. To be fair, she really is right about most things.

Yet oh the things she does that drive me nuts! She was trained as a secretary in the 1960s, and she's been doing things that way ever since. She won't write "Miss" for single women at least, but she is sure to write "Mrs." if she knows the woman is married, even if that woman isn't using her current husband's name. All correspondence to a man and woman at the same address go to "Mr. and Mrs. HisLastName." If a woman has an advanced degree or other title she ignores it. Men are always "Dr." or "Maj. Gen." or what have you.

I really do like my coworker and I've learned a lot from her, because she knows the secretarial stuff plus pretty much everything about our field. But I am so looking forward to her retirement, at which time I'm going to see to it that "Mrs. John Murphy" gets to reclaim her own identity, degrees, and other honorifics.
posted by lesli212 at 4:08 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


From the ages of 19 to 21 I helped take care of my grandmother and for the last two years I lived with her she began a steep decline into Alzheimer's. I tried to explain to my family what was happening but they couldn't see it until my grandmother was about to the point the mother is at in the article. This story is breaking my heart, I went through so much trying to care for my own grandmother and my heart goes out to this family.
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:36 PM on June 18 [4 favorites]


I tried to explain to my family what was happening but they couldn't see it until my grandmother was about to the point the mother is at in the article.

People are surprisingly resistant to accounts of a relatives descent into dementia. In part, of course, it's just not wanting to believe something so awful is true--but there's also a weird kind of compensatory narrative that springs up where whatever behaviors you describe get imputed to frankly fanciful motives that somehow you're just failing to recognize: "oh, she put her shoes in the freezer? Well, you remember she always did dislike having sweaty feet!" Dealing with someone who is losing their marbles always impresses you with how actively we all work collectively at maintaining a sense of the world's coherence and explicability. It really takes a pretty profound shock to force us to accept that someone has just checked out of those frameworks of understanding.
posted by yoink at 4:53 PM on June 18 [4 favorites]


My mother is on the slow slide to where Dr. Mom is. My great-aunt is most of the way there. Odds are, given my medical history compared to my mother's, if something else doesn't get me first (not impossible given other health issues), I'll go the same way. I do contemplate the bad things, but like BitterOldPunk's coworker, mostly I don't want to know.

Also, as someone who was in high school in 1984, and who had enough of her own damn troubles with sexism at the time (my after-school job that I lost because I was female, let's not talk about that), I have less than zero trouble believing that a judge would offer the options seen in the court record and not "Ms", which was still a bit newfangled for conservative gentlemen of a certain age--the age likely to be judges.
posted by immlass at 5:00 PM on June 18


immlass, she was being deposed by an attorney rather than a judge, but the same line of thought probably applies.
posted by kavasa at 5:03 PM on June 18


As an aside, not everyone with a doctorate goes by "Doctor." I know many Ph.D.s who don't expect or insist on being called "Doctor," and among whom the general assumption is that to avoid confusion, that title is generally reserved for M.D.s. One philosophy professor friend of mine affirmatively objects to being called "Doctor," insisting "Mr." is just fine. His reasoning is that there are so many Ph.D.s in his daily life and on his campus that linguistic inflation makes the term hyperformal, if not meaningless,

On the other hand, pretty much everybody I know who has successfully defended gets a hearty "Congratulations, Dr. So-and-so" at the end.

And I know that at Caltech, at the doctoral celebration dinner, you get a pamphlet which points out that the word Doctor comes from the Latin 'docere', to teach. I mean, at least some people with PhD's must like being called "Dr." because the only time I get called "Dr." is when somebody is trying to sell me something or the alumni association wants money.

A person with a PhD is entitled to be called "Dr." if that's what they want to be called, is what I am saying.

(As an aside, I think this whole only MD's should be called "Dr." in medical contexts can be solved the same way the Army and the Navy have solved the "Captain" problem: with courtesy promotion. MD's have my permission to refer to me as "Science Lord", to reduce confusion.)
posted by Comrade_robot at 5:07 PM on June 18 [7 favorites]


In a deposition, where expertise is the point, Dr. is appropriate.

Saw this on fb, and enjoyed the backstory. As we baby boomers age, caring for old people will be more and more of a task. I hope my son is as sweet.
posted by theora55 at 6:14 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


My dad had dementia, the vascular kind I assumed. He died Christmas Eve 2012 in an aged-care facility. Pneumonia.

At the funeral I looked around at one point and everyone except me is crying and I'm like no you don't get it, this is a good thing. I visited him 3-4 times a week for his final two years after he became unmanageable at home, and while he was never violent or prone to outbursts he was plainly depressed and suffering - unable to control his limbs, form sentences, or see.

The last coherent thing he said was just over a year before he died. I'd been trying to communicate for well over an hour, to let him know I was travelling to Japan and wouldn't be around for a couple of weeks. I think I finally got him to understand, and then

"Next year," he says with peculiar emphasis and positivism "everything is going to be different."
posted by um at 7:05 PM on June 18 [7 favorites]


I have a delightful book called In Flagrante Collecto by Marilynn Gelfman Karp, Ph.D., artist, professor, and avid collector. One thing she shares in the book is her collection of her and her husband's names, misspelled. Along with the countless Marilynnn's and Maryland's, there are:

Dr. & Mrs. Ivan Karp
Ivan Karp, aka Marilynn
Dr. & Mr. Marilynn Karp
Mr. & Mrs. Marilynn Karp
Dir: M. Kaup
Mr. Ivan Karp and Driver Marilynn Karp
Mr. Ivan Karp, Drive Marilynn Karp
posted by hydrophonic at 7:29 PM on June 18 [3 favorites]


My mother had a Ph.D. She went by Dr. (or Professor) in professional contexts as needed, but generally felt that in social contexts, Dr. is usually taken to mean M.D. not Ph.D. and there was no need to confuse people.

When I was a kid, she was called in to speak to my principal, who was an odious tyrant who, among other things, was very proud of his E.D. and insisted on being Dr. -- in all contexts. He not only didn't address my mother that way, but didn't even give her a Mrs., just called her "Mother" in a very patronizing way. At one point she slipped and said Mr. and he puffed himself up and insisted on Dr. So she waited for the next patronizing nickname, drew herself up, and told him "Doctor [lastname]". (I gather that if you're playing dominance games, a Ph.D. beats an E.D.)
posted by Karmakaze at 7:44 PM on June 18


I have followed Dementia be Damned for awhile now. It's both educational and beautifully written and has helped me humanize dementia. My grandmother had dementia when I was younger and this blog has helped me understand a bit of what it was like for her, and also for my mother who helped care for her and saw her decline. I also feel less scared now about the possibility of caring for my mom if this were to happen.

Previously.
posted by HMSSM at 8:13 PM on June 18


I am still a bit peeved that getting my Masters degree does not come with the obvious title of "Master". 

I`ve never been able to decide which title is more pretentious: Master of Divinity or Master of History.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:05 PM on June 18 [4 favorites]


My best friend's mom, when we were growing up, insisted I call her Liz. I never could even though I called her husband Bob. I just thought it was a step down calling her Liz. I stuck to Doctor or the rare, Doc. She earned her title and there were not many female emergency room doctors that I knew growing up. She was the coolest, telling us gross stories of some of the patient emergencies that week.
posted by 724A at 9:25 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


So maybe we don't know the exact tone and matter-of-factness of what transpired in the court room, but given the choice between a printed fact and a good story, always go with the good story. Full respect to the badass Dr. Dougherty.

The day after Christmas last year, I drove my 89-year-old mother to a nursing home. This is a one-way trip. She's around stage 5 or 6 on the dementia scale and lives in a timeline that's only 5 minutes long before she repeats herself again and asks if her husband and her parents are still alive. It's difficult going. I suppose we're all figuring out our best ways to deal.
posted by quartzcity at 1:53 AM on June 19


In a deposition, where expertise is the point, Dr. is appropriate.

I may be getting imaginative here, but I wonder - was she hired by this lawyer or by opposing counsel? If the former, he was obtuse and even foolish, if the latter, he might have been attempting to subtly (!) undercut her credibility.

Which, tactically, makes all the sense in the world.
posted by BWA at 8:52 AM on June 19


(On postview, I suppose direct examination must be of someone you yourself called as a witness, no? Which argues for the lawyer's being obtuse and foolish in not highlighting all the witness' qualifications. I wonder if he (surely not she?) won the case.)
posted by BWA at 9:00 AM on June 19


My paternal grandmother has Alzheimer's. She lives in a nursing home, sees my sister several times a week, and frequently doesn't recognize her. She sees me once every year or two and does.

She's forgotten most of what she's known, including the fact that my father died of cancer in 1995. Sometimes she wonders why he never visits, and we can't bring ourselves to tell her; instead we just say that he absolutely couldn't make it and we're sure he would have loved to be there. Then we steer the conversation to something else.

I was at a complete loss as to what gentle lie to tell when she started crying, saying that she really wanted to go home but that she couldn't remember where home was.

One of former co-workers said that her grandmother had Alzheimer's and that she had forgotten everyone in her family but remembered that she didn't eat meat. It's a cruel and capricious disease; I'm completely on board with Terry Pratchett's desire to jump before he's pushed.

The Nun Study is interesting. There have been other things I've read about predictors of Alzheimer's (supposedly an onset of vertigo coupled with a loss of hand strength; another study suggests cynicism as a predictor) but I haven't found anything I'd consider really solid scientific evidence. It's possible there's good evidence to be found but I've just been looking in the wrong places.
posted by johnofjack at 9:11 AM on June 19 [4 favorites]


It's probably morbid seeing as I'm only 39 and afaik have no family history of alzheimer's but I have been thinking of ending my life if I ever end up having it. It's that horrifying for me. Thing is, I have children and I don't know which option would be worse for them.
posted by Omnomnom at 11:36 AM on June 19


Wow, that last paragraph was a punch to the gut. A beautiful, wrenching punch to the gut.
posted by Dysk at 2:35 AM on June 20


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