Patient & Family Stories
Our patients and their family members share their stories to help others who may be experiencing memory deficit choose the best care for memory loss and early dementia.
Helen and her husband moved from Boston to San Francisco a few years ago, in order to be closer to their daughters and grandchildren. They established a relationship with a local primary care physician (PCP) at California Pacific Medical Center. The timing couldn’t have been better! Helen, who describes herself as ‘always absentminded’, had begun to show the early signs of memory loss. Her family noticed she kept asking the same questions over and over again. Though she knew there was a problem, she tried to deny it and then became desperate. Her family, with some gentle nudging, encouraged her to talk with her doctor about her memory loss. Her PCP referred her to CPMC for evaluation.
Helen was terrified of losing her memory. At first, the thought of visiting the clinic was daunting. She was afraid she would not do well on the testing. At the Brain Health Center (the former Memory Clinic), she found the staff to be very supportive, gentle, reassuring and nonjudgmental. After a battery of memory tests, administered by Dr. Catherine Madison, Helen met with aide, Karen Geiger. Karen worked with Helen and helped her acknowledge her ongoing problem with alcohol. She encouraged Helen to stop drinking in a very ‘we’ve all been there’ approach, allowing Helen to be herself, while feeling supported and understood by the staff. Helen continues to attend AA meetings once or twice a month.
Dealing with the alcohol problem was one step toward helping Helen regain control over her life. The next step was meeting with Ryan McKim, a cognition coach. Ryan gave Helen tools to help her track things and reduce her anxiety. Helen would get anxious whenever she couldn’t remember things, which in turn would increase her memory loss. To break the cycle between the memory loss and anxiety, she now writes everything down in her big black notebook. Helen also uses meditation techniques given to her by Ryan. Listening to calming music also helps keep her from getting too rattled.
When Helen first came to CPMC, she felt like she was on an ice flow: cold, alone and floating aimlessly. Nothing seemed to help. Now, she feels more in control and she even has a cheering section! She still visits Karen twice a month, accompanied by one of her daughters and is actively engaged in her treatment with Ryan.
With help from the staff, Helen has become herself again. She enjoys the company of her children and grandchildren and is an active member of her community.
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Dale Sakai became involved in the care of his 93 year old aunt, Fusako Sakai, in 2001. Fusako, a single independent woman was having difficulty managing the details of her health care challenges. With the help of several California Pacific doctors Fusako’s medical issues were for the most part stabilized. Her biggest remaining health challenge was associated with her dementia.
In the fall of 2006 Fusako took ill becoming lethargic and virtually unresponsive. She was taken to the emergency room at California Pacific. Several tests were run to determine the cause of her lethargy. While in the hospital her dementia began to worsen. Her cognitive skills and mood worsened. After a fairly lengthy stay in the hospital she was transferred to California Pacific’s skilled nursing facility (SNF).While at the SNF her motor skills improved with physical and occupational therapy. However, her dementia continued to deteriorate. The doctor’s at the SNF contacted Dr. Catherine Madison to complete an evaluation of Fusako. Dr. Madison determined a change in some of her medications would help stabilizes Fusako neurologically.
As Fusako’s motor skills improved it was time for her to leave the SNF. Fusako desperately wanted to return to her home. However, given the number of stairs she needed to climb to get into her home coupled with her care requirements her doctors, social worker and family determined that she needed to continue her recovery in an assisted living facility (ALF) with 24 hour supervision before considering going home.
Once at the ALF, Dr. Madison continued to see Fusako and started the process of changing some of her medications. Being able to stabilize Fusako neurologically was critical to her being able to return home or even stay at the ALF. The family wanted to avoid Fusako having to go to a SNF on a permanent basis. Most importantly, the family just wanted Fusako back to her “old” self.
Through the wonderful and compassionate care provided by Dr. Madison, Fusako’s dementia was brought under control and her life returned to the normalcy of a 93 year old.
Once stabilized both physically and neurologically, Dr. Madison worked closely with the entire family to determine the best living and care arrangements for Fusako. Dr. Madison with tremendous compassion and professionalism guided the family through their concerns, emotions and differing points of view to identify a care arrangement that made the best sense for Fusako and the family.
Dr. Madison is a fantastic doctor…but, more importantly…she is a wonderful person. A great doctor with tremendous compassion is a winning combination. Dr. Madison is an invaluable “difference” maker to Fusako and her family.
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In 2007 Sue (not her real name), who is in her early 60s, was referred to Catherine Madison, M.D. by her physician due to memory issues. Sue was working in the high-paced world of healthcare and decided to take some time off work to access her memory concerns. During her first meeting with Dr. Madison they discussed Sue’s situation and she was scheduled for some diagnostic screening tests, MRI and PET Scans, to possibly identify the reason for her memory loss. She returned later to for neuropsychology memory testing. “This was a really hard test,” stated Sue, “but the staff really made me feel comfortable, and showed a lot of sympathy.”
Over the last six months Sue has met with Dr. Madison every two weeks. She takes a daily oral medication prescribed by Dr. Madison which has helped her memory issues. “After working for so many years I’m now enjoying retirement. I have reconnected with old friends and I’m sprucing up my new home.” Sue and her husband hope to travel in the near future to places in the United States she has never visited or return to Europe.
According to Sue, “the most impressive thing about the Center is that the entire staff is so nice, understanding, and professional. They really make you feel comfortable. They really want to help people. And Dr. Madison, she’s great. I’m so glad they have this Center -- and it’s great that they have classes and help for family members and caregivers too.”
California Pacific Medical Center
- Brain Health Center -
Diagnostic Testing |Medical Management | Supportive Services
San Francisco | Marin | San Mateo | San Francisco Bay Area
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