Odd dining choice could be a warning sign

Husband orders a burger at their favorite Mediterranean restaurant. Could it be cognitive decline?

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi Carolyn:

My husband is 75 and very bright. An incident occurred the other day that really concerned me. We went to a Mediterranean restaurant that we have gone to several times before, and foods like kabobs with rice, pita bread and hummus are familiar to him. But he ordered a burger. I did not think anything of it at the time. But as we were eating I asked, totally casually, “How’s the burger?” He shrugged and said “OK — I couldn’t really figure out the other things on the menu so I just ordered this.”

He couldn’t figure out the foods on a relatively short (posted) menu full of familiar offerings? I’ve read memoirs about dementia with anecdotes like, “I should have known something was wrong when my mother would say, ‘I’ll have what you are having.’” Turned out mom was no longer making sense of the menu.

Anyway, Carolyn, does this incident sound troubling to you? If so, what can/should I do? I did mention it to husband a day or so later and he shrugged it off as nothing.

— Really Concerned

Don’t assume the responsibility of weighing its importance yourself. Put in a call to his doctor, report what happened, let the expert determine any follow-up steps. I hope it’s nothing but it does sound like something.

Re: Cognitive Decline:

I think you’re right to be concerned, and second Carolyn’s advice to talk to a doctor. And, if he is reluctant, maybe you could sell this by suggesting both of you could take a cognitive test administered by the doc. If there is nothing wrong, then you have a baseline. If there is something wrong, you are catching it early, which can be really helpful for long-term prognosis.

— Anonymous

Excellent, thank you.

Dear Carolyn:

For the first time, one of my son’s sports teams has an obnoxious parent. He’s not the nightmare stereotype I’d feared, just low-grade obnoxious. Groaning audibly when his son misses a free throw, for example. Or calling out, “You gotta get those rebounds!” to no one in particular. These boys are 8 and 9, so they’re age-appropriately, uh, skilled.

I’ve seen his wife encouraging him to tone it down, and I’m wondering — given that his comments aren’t abusive — if I ought to say something. And, for that matter, what I’d say. If I were the coach, which I am in another sport, I’d definitely say something to the guy. As the dad of another player? I don’t know if I’d be out of line.

— Wondering

You’ve made it to your son’s 8th/9th birthday, you’re a coach, and this is your first obnoxious same-team sports parent?

Mazel tov.

His wife is on him to tone it down, plus free-throw groaning and rebound laments are pretty tame. I think you can safely stay out of it. Coaches and any immediate family really are the best ones to take this on and it’s OK sometimes to use that to one’s conflict-avoidant advantage.

At times fellow parents do need to speak up, sure. You’ll know you’re there when you hear yourself apologizing to the other team’s fans for some of the idiots rooting for yours.

— Washington Post Writers Group

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