My grandmother is 86 years old. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's about 5 years ago. She's at stage 4 right now. However, she's been this way for several years now. She's been on Aricept ever since she was diagnosed and she started taking Namenda about 8 or 9 months ago. She had been taking Zyprexa for a while but it made her very drowsy so we stopped it. She has depression but has never been treated for it. However, he depression symptoms seem to have been diminishing for a while. She's certainly been exhibiting many of the symptoms of Alzheimer's. However, she's also experiencing some symptoms that don't seem to be caused by Alzheimer's.
Her memory is failing. She doesn't remember how long she's been living in her current home (about 5 years), she thinks she just moved there or that it's not her home, but she remembers the home before it. She spends about half of the year in China and the other half in the United States. When she's in China, she keeps thinking that she just came back from the US, even after she's been back for 3 or 4 months, and when she's in the US, she keeps thinking that she's been away from China for a very long time, even if she's just been in the US for a week. She still knows who everyone in her family are. She also know who her friends are. What's strange is that when she looks a picture of me when I was a kid, between 2 and 6, she doesn't know who it is. She also has trouble remembering things from 10 to 20 years ago.
She hasn't had any major personality changes. It's quite the opposite, she just seems to have a more extreme version of her old personality. She's always been very stubborn, when she doesn't want to do something it's very hard to convince her otherwise but now she's even more stubborn, it's almost impossible for her to change her mind. She's always been easily agitated but now gets very annoyed and sometimes angry at the slightest problem. For example, if she doesn't like someone's handwriting she would get angry, if the air conditioning at a restaurant is a bit high, she would get angry and want to go home. She's always been suspicious to the point of paranoid but she's become more and more suspicious of everyone and everything. Her home has been robbed before when she was out of town so that might be part of the cause.
She hasn't had any really bad delusions. Whenever she can't find something she thinks it was stolen, sometimes she says she knows who stole it but she wouldn't tell me. She's always thinking that there are bad people trying to steal from her but she only does a bit of hiding but no hoarding. When people come to her house, like a plumber or the neighbor, she forgets who those people were but she remembers that people came and she thinks that they stole from her.
She hasn't had any hallucinations but she has woken up from dreams thinking that they were real. She wakes up disoriented and tries to act on these dreams. For example, once she got up and thought that my uncle was sick, even though my uncle wasn't living with her, she got dressed and decided to go downstairs, she lives on the third floor of an apartment building, if I hadn't stopped her she might have left home. This happens once every few weeks.
She's in China right now and she probably won't be able to see her neurologist for at least another two months after she gets back to the US so I can't ask him about it. Could some of my grandmother's problems be caused by something other than Alzheimer's?
Your description of your Grandmother's symptoms fits the exact pattern of what my mother went through. I think when Dementia begins at an age over 80, it is considered 'old age dementia' or 'senile dementia' and not Alzheimer's. I think my mother never really had Alzheimer's, but that .
Yet from a treatment standpoint, it is handled the same. Forgetting who is in a picture she took, forgetting where she just came from and how long she has been there, forgetting where she lives, etc are all normal Dementia behavior. I don't think there is anything else wrong with her.
If the anger and anxiety get out of control, those things can be treated with yet more pills --- but nothing changes the course of the disease. My Mom got it at around age 91, and died of it last year at age 99.
You need a lot of patience and selfless love to get through this, but you will.
Your grandmother is lucky to have you.
Welcome to the forum Giant. I agree with Martha. The behaviours that you describe are all consistent with dementia. The time confusion as she travels between China and the US is not unexpected. Major changes do tend to increase confusion. The lack of self control that makes her personality seem extreme is common as well. If she misplaces something or doesn't know where it is, and has absolutely no memory of what happened to it, then it must have been stolen. Vivid dreams are also common and it is hard for them to tell the difference between dreams and reality. These are all symptoms that probably came on gradually as the disease manifest itself over time.
There are medications for depression, anxiety, and aggression that will not make your grandmother a walking zombie. They will not only help your grandmother but the caregiver as well. It is important to watch for side effects when any new medication is started. Your Grandmother can not tell you the side effect so you have to be watchful.
It is always possible that something else is going on with your grandmother but I didn't see anything in your post that would indicate as much. As long as there was not a new behavior that came on suddenly or was tied to a new medication I would not worry.
Hope all goes well with your grandmother. You are a special granddaughter to be so concerned, caring, and looking for answers. I will keep you both in my thoughts and prayers.
The one thing I've noticed about her is that her condition hasn't really changed that much. She isn't any more forgetful today than she was 4 or 5 years ago.
She's never been completely forgetful. Sometimes she'll say she's forgotten something without even thinking about it but if given a bit of time she will remember. Also, she remembers bad things much better than good things.
A lot of her problems seem to stem from her depression. She doesn't have any hobbies. She doesn't go out very often. She doesn't talk to her friends unless they come to her house. She never really does anything that stimulates her mind. She dwells on problems of the past.
What you just described may very well be the dementia at work Giant. My mom has lost her ability to socialize, is hesitant to go out of the room because it is confusing to her, and would rather stay in the room and complain than to venture out into that big scary world outside her door that she no longer understands. Depression can cause memory deterioration and memory loss can lead to depression.... it's a real chicken and egg situation.
Did your neurologist diagnose her as ALZ or dementia? Mom has ALZ and the cognitive decline of ther last two years has been rather dramatic. Dad has vascular dementia and I can't tell a lot of difference in him at all. Each person and each disease moves at it's own speed. I have also noticed that it is easier to notice changes when you don't see them every day.
Your best bet is a discussion with her neurologist to find out what her test showed and what diagnosis he made..... and what he expects for her condition. But again... I have seen nothing in your post that is unusual for ALZ patients.