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Old 02-23-2009, 06:52 AM   #1
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Could mother-in-law have Alzheimers?

I'm new to this board, but I'm trying to figure out what's going on with my husband's mother. She is 75 and has been in pretty good health, except for being on meds for high cholesterol/heart disease and a hip replacement several years ago. She doesn't smoke or drink and gets regular exercise.

She has always had a good memory for facts and has been well-spoken, but over the last year or so, we're noticing changes in her. She has started to tell the same thing to the same people repeatedly (like she called our pastor three days in a row to tell him she had taken care of arrangements for something). In conversation, she sometimes seems slightly confused while processing the information and we may have to tell her several times until she "gets it" or she'll suddenly realize what we're trying to tell her and make an excuse for why she didn't understand right away. There are two men in our church in the same hospital room and she told our pastor that one of them died, even though he didn't. She recently gave us a bag of stuff like magazines, etc. When I got home and looked in the bag, I found photos from a cruise our family took together even though we have our own photos. When I asked why she didn't want them, she "bluffed" and said she only wanted to show them to us. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

Are we looking at Alzheimer's here or is there something else we should be checking on? Thank you so much for your time and input!

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Old 02-23-2009, 08:34 AM   #2
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Re: Could mother-in-law have Alzheimers?

I see that she is on anti cholesterol drugs. My Mom had an episode of heart failure and was put on those and other heart medicines. Three months later she started showing signs of dementia. The drug (statins) manufacturers do not have knowledge of any connection --- but I have anecdotal information from many people.

We took her off statins. Her doctor agreed only because they were causing leg cramps, a known reaction.

To make a long story short, Mom's dementia progressed and became so bad that she was finally confined to a nursing home. She passed away at 99. The heart episode took place when she was around 93.

Your MIL may have Dementia. Alzheimer's is one of the many forms of it. Or, she could have something as simple as an undiagnosed UTI (bladder infection) or maybe she had an unnoticed mini stroke. That's why it is so important to get the opinion of a neurologist or someone who understands the diseases of elderly people, a geriatric physician. Good luck and I hope it is NOT Dementia!



Last edited by Martha H; 02-23-2009 at 11:26 AM. Reason: changed to correct term for doctor of elderly

Old 02-23-2009, 09:04 AM   #3
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Re: Could mother-in-law have Alzheimers?

Thank you, Martha. I never thought of the connection with statins, but I know they can have lots of side effects. The idea to have her seen by a neurologist or geriontoligist is very good, too. Our family members know something isn't right with her, so having things to explore will be helpful. Thanks again!

Old 02-23-2009, 09:49 AM   #4
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Re: Could mother-in-law have Alzheimers?

Luv, welcome to the board. Sorry you need to be here but glad you found us. My best advice is to get your MIL a complete physical to rule out any medical reasons for the dementia and have the doctor give her a mini mental while she is there. He needs to be aware of her behavior if you have to drop him a note before the visit or have a little chat in the hall. If other reasons are found that can be reversed, great. If not then you can get a proper diagnosis from a specialist.

Martha is right about the statin. I was one of those that Statin muddled mentallly. I spent about a year in a mental fog before forgetting my pills when I went on a week long trip. That was the beginning of getting better. I had no clue, while taking the medication, what it was doing to me. But I surely knew when I went off them how different I was. Beyond that, Cholesterol medication is not something that works immediately. It is a long term benefit med. It is not going to break up the existing plaque, just helps prevent it in the long term. So is the benefit worth the risk for the elderly?

But... what you described does remind me of what I noticed with Mom at first. The repeated stories, the confusion in facts, the excuses for what she couldn't remember.

The 10 symptoms of ALZ are....

1. Memory loss.... Forgetting recently learned information. This is not the occassionally forgetting of somebody's name but forgetting that they had met or forgetting why they are there. Not being able to operate new appliances. Repeating stories over and over because they forgot they told you already. (Mom repeated stories over and over)

2. Difficulty performing routine task..... Not being able to follow a recipe. Not taking medication correctly. Buying the same item at the grocery store over and over. Having trouble with electronic equipment such as remote controls they have used before. (She was an excellent cook until she started buring items, throwing out pots to cover the mistakes, and made disasters instead of her famous good cakes)

3. Difficulty with language.... Using unusal word. Not being able to find a word they want. Not being able to express their emotions or where hurts. (Mom was unable to explain her emotions or how she felt physically. She also lost words and would say "You know what I am talking about" when I had no clue what she was saying)

4. Disorientation of time and place.... Saying they haven't done something in weeks that the did yesterday. Being lost in a familiar surrounding or not being able to recognize how to get back to where they came from. (Mom got lost for 13 hours making a 5 hour trip home from a cabin we owned for over 20 years. All she could tell me was that they got a little lost and had to ask a truck driver where the "big" road was)

5. Poor judgement.... Wearing the worng clothes for the season. Using poor judgement when it comes to money and what they do with it. (Mom wanted to give $250,000 to a couple of nice men she met at a restaurant!) Repeated trip to the ER without good reason or not going to the doctor when they truly need it.

6. Problems with abstract thinking... This occurs most noticibly with numbers. They lost the ability to subtract and that will show up in their inability to keep financial records, especially balance their check book. They eventually forget what numbers are and how to use them. They are unable to estimate how many of something is there. (Mom the bookkeeper gave up the three accounts she had for what appeared to be ligitimate excuses but was also unable to keep a check register. Her numbers were one of the first things to go. Estimates were over or under exaggerated)

7. Misplacing things... Not the occassional misplaced keys but items are put somewhere and forgotten or things are put in the wrong place. (She put her keys in her pocket book, swore they were stolen, walked home 4 miles from the beauty shop when it was 99 degrees)

8. Changes in mood or behavior.... Wild swings in mood from calm to tears to anger for no apparent reason. They may give you excuses but they don't make sense to you. Depression is common. (Mom blamed everything on depression, even her outburst of crying, extreme anger at Dad, and total frustration with her life. Her emotions swings were manic with no explination because nothing had changed)

9. Changes in personality..... They tend to become confused, paranoid, fearful or dependent on others. They may tend to isolate themselves. (She because very fearful and dependent on us girls. She was always independent and insisted that we "live our life" but started saying if we would just come help her more all would be ok. She also become paranoid of her friends intentions)

10. Loss of initiative.... They may sleep or just sit more than usual. They may not want to do their usual activities. They may find excuses for not participating in activities they used to enjoy. (She constantly complained that she wanted to do thing that she was not getting to do but when given the opportunity to do something she found excuses why she couldn't. She refused help with Dad and stayed in the house with him. She started making excuses why she couldn't go play bridge which she had done all of her life.)

From that list you can determine what is normal and what is not. In hind sight my Mom fit every catagory. You may have to dig and watch and question what really happened but it is worth it.

Again, get her to the doctor and make sure he knows what you suspect. Rule out any other causes such as medication interaction or medical conditions. Have the doctor give her a mini mental. Keep a log of the behaviors that you are suspicious about. This will be very helpful to the doctor. Then if your suspicions are not resolved, have her tested by a specialist. It is much better to know than not to know.

In the mean time, make sure someone has a durable POA and medical POA for her. Also make sure somebody else's name is on all of her accounts. This will be so very valuable in dealing with her affairs in the future.

I do hope there is a medical reason for her confusion but it sure sounds like dementia. I hope you can get her checked out. Just remember that she will not now that she is having these difficulties and may be adimate that she is fine. The things she can not do and does not remember are gone. She thinks her reality is just fine and the rest of you have gone nuts

I hope you come back often and let us know how it all turns out. This is a great place for information, experiences, support, and just plain venting. We have all been where you are

Love, deb

Old 03-02-2009, 03:28 PM   #5
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Re: Could mother-in-law have Alzheimers?

Hi Deb,

Thanks so much for your kindness and thoughtful reply!

We're going to have my father-in-law check with my MIL's family doctor to see what he thinks about taking her off statins for awhile. I did some searching online and there are certainly a lot of legitimate articles to back up that possibility!! It seems that so many doctors are gung-ho over statins, so it will be interesting to see how he responds.

My MIL had been going through some "bad spells", but now she seems less confused lately. I guess whether it's dementia or statins causing her mental confusion, that it could come and go.

Thanks again for all your will help me know what to look for in the future.

Old 03-02-2009, 10:18 PM   #6
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Re: Could mother-in-law have Alzheimers?

It is not going to hurt anything to stop the statin for a while and see what happend. They do not have an immediate effect but are believed to slow down the build up of plaque in the arteries. I can tell you from experience that I had improvements with in a week.

But do check with her doctor and let him know what you suspect. There are so many medications and medical conditions that can cause confusion. It's best to leave no stone unturned. An appointment with a neurologist might also be helpful. If it is something else that you can fix, then you need to do so. If it is one of the forms of dementia you need to know that too.

I will say that repeating herself, confusing facts, and depression were the first things I recognized with mom. The lost of her ability to use numbers was the next. Mom, gave up keeping books and lost her ability to use her computer. She also made excuses and gradually isolated herself. She also became easily annoyed and complained about things she had never complained about before.

I do hope it is not dementia. Let us know what you find out

Love, deb

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