My mom is 68 and has been diagnosed with dementia. Nuero says she has mild cognitive decline. She lives alone. As far as symptoms go she is fairly functional (She still drives locally as her doctor said it was ok for now, housework, socializes with friends). She is no longer interested in many of her old activities (reading, arts and crafts, cooking). She has an issue doing things that have multiple steps. Her short term memory is not too good but she does remember certain things that are emotional in nature or gossipy (i.e.: if I tell her a story and make it dramatic she will remember the overall story but won't recall specific details) She is currently attending adult day 3 days a week and we manage her pills (automated pillbox) ,dr's appts and her bills. She has very high level anxiety about screwing things up so we don't let her know about appts or events until the day of...if she finds out in advance she obsesses and thinks that the event is that day.
So we sort of felt like we had things somewhat under control but recently we also starting suspecting that she was drinking more wine than she claims. She had some unexpected bruising and also broke her flat screen tv. She always says she has one little glass of wine at night but I was starting to wonder if she was having more than that because she forgot she already had one.
At any rate we talked to her doctor and her PCP informed us that she should only drink occasionally because of her medications and told my mom no more nightly wine. My mother seemed to understand and said that she would just buy non-alcoholic wine. I thought that was a good idea so we bought a few bottles. She liked it even though she said it did not give her a "buzz". Fast forward 2 weeks and we discovered two days ago that she was passed out at 730 at night when my sister went over to check on her. She found an empty bottle of regular wine in the trash. So needless to say she is still drinking alcohol. Last night my sister brought over 2 bottles of non-alcohol wine. Tonight when she checked on her 1/2 of the bottle was gone so we know for sure she is drinking more than one glass.
I just wanted to check to see if other people have encountered this scenario before and if you have any suggestions. Ultimately Mom will go to assisted living...we are working on power of attorney in the next month and I expect that next year we will make the move. It is tricky with her though because most of the time she is completely aware of what is going on and is pretty functional. It is also tricky because she loves that wine and I am not sure how we can stop her from going to the store and buying more regular wine. She never had a problem with alcohol prior to this. Thanks in advance for any tips.
Yoga, this is a common problem because the don't remember that they have had a glass or two or four. Mom would drink one and put the glass in the dishwasher, go back and get another, and another. She only had ONE! ... but the dishwasher was full of wine glasses. Dad like his vodka. I remember the night he passed out in his mashed potatoes at the dinner table because he was putting in a jigger of soft drink and filling the tumbler up with vodka. The lack of short term memory does not allow them to remember....
Then there is the issue of the medication. Many of the medications they take should not be taken with alcohol. Then you have the fall risk when buzzed. It is a dangerous situation especially for the demented that are living alone.
As long as Mom is driving, and able to buy the wine, there is not much you can do. My question is WHY is she still driving. Oh, it's because the doctor said it was ok. Mom can't remember how much wine she has had but she is ok to drive a 2 ton killing machine down the road. It is a per peeve of mine. I have been there. Doctor said Mom was ok to drive if she would "focus more"! Not sure what part of dementia he didn't understand. I learned quickly that doctor's are not always right!!! He assured me Mom was fine to drive but she had a warrant for a hit and run accident. She hit the car. Looked at the damage and drove off. She was totally unaware that she was supposed to make an accident report. She also backed out of the drive without looking (according the the neighbors) and there were other dings and dents on the van that she assured me had always been there (NOT). The scary one was running over the yard statue of two little girls with no memory of doing it... and driving off. What if they had been children? It truly bothers me when doctor's do not understand the dangers of demented driving. They do not have the cognitive awareness to handle an emergency situation. Beyond that, if there is a dementia diagnosis, and there is a major accident, you are setting yourself up for major litigation. I would call the Alzheimer's Association in your area and ask about a cognitive driving test facility. They will test your Mom's ability to drive safely from not only the physical ability to drive but the cognitive ability and determine if she is safe or not. That is the ONLY way to know if she is safe to drive.
Once Mom was no longer driving it was easier to eliminate alcohol from her environment. If it was not there, she couldn't drink it. Otherwise you are going to have this battle for a while. She will not remember to buy the non-alcoholic wine because she has never bought that before and she will not remember how much she has consumed. It was a combination of the alcohol consumption, unexplained accidents, then loss of driving privileges, that landed Mom and Dad in AL. From the point you are right now... it was much less than a year What I learned along the way is that it was never under control for more than a very short period of time.
I'd be more concerned about the driving, as well. If she doesn't know she's had a few, she might decide to run some errands.
On the other hand, I probably wouldn't be overly concerned if my aging, lonely mother were drinking some alcohol in the privacy of her own home, so long as she wasn't doing anything to endanger anyone else.
The Following User Says Thank You to elizabeth62 For This Useful Post: jroseliver (09-29-2012)
Thank you for your feedback! Deb your last note about things are under control for just a short time is exactly what we are dealing with...I go back and forth on how soon she needs AL...that is a whole different dilemma for us because she can probably afford it for a few years but after that who knows. At any rate I am going to call her nuero today to tell him we are concerned about driving in light of the alcohol situation. I am hoping that he will have us come in and he can deliver the news...she will be very angry especially since she already dislikes him but I am thinking it will be an easier pill for her to swallow if he says it. Thanks again for your input.
My husband has dementia and one day a few years ago went to the doctor without me. He told the doctor he was confused and got lost. She told him she was going to contact the DMV and pull his license. He didn't think she would but she did and he had to give up his license. He was mad a a wet hen and I had to get rid of his car. They don't like to give away their independence as all of us don't want that taken from us but I thank God that the doctor did that because he doesn't drink but the confusion could have caused him to be in an accident where he would have gotten hurt or had hurt someone else. It is a hard decision but for the safety of all ages, it has to be done.
The Following User Says Thank You to renko For This Useful Post: jroseliver (09-29-2012)
Yoga, I so understand. As I said before I have been there done that and have the battle scars to prove it! Two of the hardest things I had to do was take away driving privileges and then move them out of their home. Yet these are the two most important decisions you make... and have to be made eventually.
The help you get from outside in taking driving privileges is spotty at best. Dad's doctor did tell him not to drive (it didn't stick) but never took the next step to notify the DMV. He was diagnosed in 1998 and told not to drive soon there after. Imagine my amazement when, in 2006, my sister took him to the DMV and they renewed his license!!! He just needed to pass an eye test which he did and sign his name. He was 86 and deep in Vascular Dementia.
Mom was more difficult because she always drove after Dad was told not to. Giving up her license was a double blow because they both lost that independence. I had her diagnosed in September 2006 at a Memory Assessment Research Service who referred her back to her general physician. He was the one that told her she could drive is she just focus. HA! That statement still infuriates me. Only with heated conversation between he and I did he limit it to in town. When I took her back to MARS for a follow up, they were very willing to tell her she could not drive... and were SHOCKED her doctor had not done it earlier.
Mom losing her driving privileges lead directly to the melt down that landed Mom and Dad in AL. Some thought it was because of losing those driving privileges that lead to the move but in reality losing the driving privileges only spotlighted the cognitive decline and validated the fact that they were unable to live safely at home.... even with in home help most of the time. It was the dementia that caused it all.... nothing anybody did. And that is what you have to keep in mind. You are not taking away privileges... the disease is taking away the ability to be safe in the situation they have been safe in before. You are only doing what the disease dictates.
This disease is degenerative and ever evolving. We think we have it under control when something happens that throws it all into yet another tail spin. We try to hold on to what was before as long as possible but this disease is always one step ahead of us crashing our hopes for normality. Always be open to changes. If something happens once it will happen again. If Mom is diving then ride with her. Check deep in her house for unusual situations. While searching the back of a cabinet for cleaning supplies I found a black pot. According to her she was not cooking.. HUMM!! Have I mentioned her broken arm (still don't know how that happened) or the two fire department visits.
A good way to decide if Mom is able to stay at home alone is to set off the smoke alarm. Does she know to call 911 and get out of the house? It is these emergency situations when their lack of cognitive abilities will kick in. I truly believed Mom or Dad would get it. But when the smoke alarm went off and the house filled with smoke, instead of calling 911 and leaving the house, they both went in search of the source. They stayed in the house and even argued with the neighbor who tried to get them out of the house. It turned out to be minor in both cases (wash cloth left draped over a lamp which was on and a computer battery back up shorted out because Dad plugged the vacuum into it) but it highlighted that they were incapable of handling any emergency situation. That is your fear, not the day to day normal, but when they create a crisis situation and then have no idea what to do about it.
In all my years of dealing with this disease I have heard too many horror stories of what can happen not to warn those just beginning that all is not well... even if there is a hope that is will be. We want to believe it will not happen to our loved ones... but so did these other families. Just recently a lady with dementia was killed after wandering away from home. Listening to her family talk about taking her to the doctor that afternoon, thinking she was ok home alone, and their regret was heart wrenching. So I warn It is better to do the hard things than to live with the possible consequences.
I am so sorry your Mom has dementia and has drinking issue.
First of all, I think she cannot be alone. Waiting for AL takes a while.
Maybe you need to hire a part-time caregiver to be with her at certain time each day so she can be safe without drinking too much or driving in danger...
Yes stop driving is the first thing. Maybe if you get someone to drive her, it will get her slow down a little bit. Yes, a doctor's request may help and she may listen to him.
However, she will forget later. So the best thing is to get rid of the car and car keys for good.
I know it is hard. My late FIL had been through all these. First he drove then he got lost halfway. Then he stopped driving since there was a caregiver who could drive him.
I sincerely think that some home care service will help so you can work without worrying about her. For us, we had added home care up to 24/7 and then we sent him to the dementia unit in the NH in the last 2 years when he was very sick with memory loss. It is a long journey with different caregiving methods... The person will change and get worse. The beginning is harder because she would not admit it.
I hate to say this, but if you expect that she will change or cope with it in the right way, it would not work out because she will forget about all these later on. Eventually you will need to find home care for her and then AL and memory unit...
Please do Yoga. I will say, when I was in the stage you are in now, it was what I consider the most difficult stage. Mom still had enough cognition, mobility, and independence to get herself in some real trouble! Once the driving stopped and she was in AL there was a period of rebellion. Then it settled down and at least I know she is safe which is HUGE. We resist taking the difficult next step but after it is done, life is better for everybody including Mom.
Also, if your Mom can stop alcohol, maybe the whole thing can be stopped. I cannot say that for sure. Assume that your Mom will get worse, there will be different levels of caregiving depending on her condition.
My mom too has lost ccount of her drinking. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's this year. She was always a heavy social drinker and had her vodka every night, but now she insists she only has one (and it's a big one), but the reality is, she is drinking about 8-10 shots per night. I measured her bottle to figure out the consumption rate.
We have had to take away all cash, credit and checks because if she has any money, she walks from AL to a liquor store that is about a half mile away and buys a liter of vodka. I have tried to convince her to stop, but of course, even when she agrees, she forgets. If she wasn't an alcoholic, she might have remained independent a bit longer, but it is too much of a double whammy to drink like a fish and have alzheimers.
I feel sad because she has lost so much independence because of the alchol issues.
The following user gives a hug of support to HazelRabbit: aras (02-16-2013)
Hazel, they do forget what they have consumed and just keep drinking. Mom was only a social drinker but she would drink one and then one more and then one more glass of wine. She just forgot she had already had one. We were able to take the wine out of her life and eventually it was forgotten. I do understand you having to take away her ability to buy the alcohol if she was walking to purchase it. Does she given you any problems when she does not have it? Does she mix it with something? I wonder if she would notice if you filled the vodka bottle with something non alcoholic? If she is content not having it then leave it as it is. If she gives you a fit about not having it, try putting something non alcoholic and clear in the bottle. Perhaps water with a little lemon and/or lime in it. Bourbon can be substituted with unsweetened tea. It works many times if they mix drinks but not so well if they drink it straight. Or just water it down. Start with about half and half. Then the next bottle do 3/4 and 1/4. Then cut it down even further. You just need enough for the flavor.. not the effect
There are those people who really likes alcohol but not alcoholics. When they are healthy, they have their sense of self-control and judgement to self-monitor and limit their intake. As we all know, judgement and self-control are the first things to go with brain impairment. Among this population, developing progressive mental impairment and excessive alcohol consumption is a real double whamy. This is a never ending issue in our household.
These are good suggestions and AL does give her 6 ounces of wine each night that we are progressively reducing to half grape juice. Still, if she has a friend or cousin in town, she will make every effort to get some more. When she comes to supper, I have a "dummy" bottle of wine that she helps herself to. It's about 1/8 wine and the rest is grape juice. It seems to keep her appeased. She still requests vodka on the rocks, but I just say we don't have any hard liquor in the house- and that seems to work. I wish she could have a little spending money- because AL takes trips to the grocery and it would be nice if she could buy some chips or fruit- but it is always spent on liquor.