Sometimes toddlers have trouble following directions. We kind of expect this as normal for their developmental age. When this inability to follow directions consistently appears in an older person, however, it can be a red flag warning of potential cognitive impairment.
My two college-aged children, both home on spring break, drove with me the two hours to my parent’s home for a visit. Mom anticipated our visit by having freshly baked cookies waiting for us when we arrived mid-morning. Upon entering their home, our noses were assailed by the smell of scorched cookies. Not only had she overcooked them, but they also had a noticeably strange appearance. She met us at the door, holding the cookie sheet in one hand and the spatula in the other, immediately wanting us to try one of her confections. My children grew up knowing her as their “baking” grandma, who always brought Tupperware containers full of homemade cookies whenever she came to visit. Today, it appeared she’d forgotten to add some key ingredient(s) and her concoction was neither tasty nor appealing. Still, each of us accepted one of the proffered cookies, and somehow managed to choke it down while smiling and nodding at the “success” of her baking endeavor.
Our visit progressed well, as both my parents were thrilled to see their 2 youngest grandchildren. At lunch, my son went to the refrigerator to get the milk and pulled out a plastic carton with slimy green mold covering a portion of the upper half of the container. He looked to me to say something, so when I tactfully suggested perhaps their milk was a bit past its prime, Mom flatly stated that it had tasted “fine” at breakfast. My son hastened to pour the remainder down the drain, after which the 5 of us ate a somewhat subdued lunch.
At the time, we didn’t consider that there might be something more happening to Mom than normal aging. Later that afternoon, on the drive back home, both my children expressed concerns regarding their grandparents safely remaining on their own. It was evident to us all that change loomed on the horizon. While I whole-heartedly agreed with my children, I knew how my parents felt about accepting home help or moving somewhere where they’d receive more assistance. They were emphatic about their wish to remain in their home until they passed away. Sadly, sometimes, wishes cannot come true.