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Old 05-21-2009, 04:34 PM   #1
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Does this sound like Alzheimer's or dementia?

My mother, who's 70, has been having some strange memory problems for the past 3 years. She seems completely normal and has absolutely no problem looking after herself (at least that I've seen) but frequently does some of the following:
-forgets things from her past (ex. pets, vacations)
-will meet new people, even spend a few days with them, but then next time she sees them has absolutely NO recollection of having met them
-will go to a place (store, restaurant, etc) that she's been to before but has no memory of ever having been there, even if she was there quite recently
-will tell me something important, then call me the next day to tell me again, and won't believe me when I say she already told me.
-recently went to a friend's wedding, and a month later couldn't remember that he got married.
-often looks at me with an anxious expression when I say "do you remember..." indicating to me that she doesn't really remember and it's stressing her out.
-has purchased things and then a few days later doesn't know where it came from.

She's had a full work-up by her doctor twice now and all the physical problems that could cause memory loss were addressed (she's in excellent health). Does it sound like Alzheimer's? Or perhaps some other form of dementia? The thing is, I haven't noticed it getting a lot worse in the past couple years. It's stayed fairly constant, although I don't live in the same town, so maybe I just don't know the whole story.

I would sure appreciate getting some input from some of you. Thanks so much!

Chancey

 
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Old 05-21-2009, 05:57 PM   #2
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Re: Does this sound like Alzheimer's or dementia?

Yes, Chancey, it sounds a lot like my Mom when she was in the early stages of Dementia. It could be Alzheimer's or one of the other types. Did the examining doctor give her the mini memory test? They ask a few questions and a few simple exercises are given. For example count backwards from 100 by sevens. The questions are simple but getting them wrong shows something is wrong. For example in midwinter after climbing over snowbanks to get into the doctor's office, my Mom told him it was Spring. When asked for the month she said October. When asked how many children she had, she said 5 (she had 3).

Often they start by saying something like "I'm going to give you 3 words, try to remember them, and later I'll ask what they were: dog, scissors, leaf.' After 15 minutes of other things, he says what were those 3 words? The dementia patient may say ''what words?" or remeber only one of them, or none.

This is not a definitive diagnosis of course, but gives the doctor some idea of what is happening, X-rays and MRIs do not really show signs of AD, not for a long long time. It used to be said that only after death can the actual brain changes be seen, but now they may have better scans. They can certainly rule out brain tumors or aneurisms by scanning.

After everythng else is ruled out they often start the person on Aricept or another anti dementia drug, sometimes it helps for a while.

But before I go on, there are one or two other causes of memory loss - one is Lyme Disease, another is a simple Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) which can often confuse a person's mind and also cause bizarre behavior.

Lyme Disease caused memory loss is reversible when antibiotics have wiped out the disease. Some people have also reported memory problems from taking certain blood pressure lowering drugs. Your Mom should not take any medications not absolutely essential for her health as decided by a doctor who knows her - or her condition - well.

I recommend your mother see a physcian well trained in geriatric neurology. I am her age, and it is always shocking to me when someone this young gets AD as I identify it with my mother who got it at age 91!

Her type of Dementia was called Senile Dementia, but at 70 it is more likely a different type.

When she goes to the doctor, I suggest you accompany her into the examination room and listen well, (she may forget what he says or refuse to believe any of it and go home to tell you 'he says I'm fine.") Hand him or her a written list of things you have observed. You ought to have some kind of legal right to her medical records; this differs in every state and in NY where I was, it was called a health proxy.

Then there is POA over all her fnancial affairs if she does have such a disease, just to make it easier later, when she is unable to balance a check book or make good financial decisions.

Don't be scared. You are not alone, a lot of help is out there, and this group of posters are absolutely wonderful in sharing their triumphs and defeats.

Best of luck to you and your mother,

Martha

 
Old 05-22-2009, 12:02 AM   #3
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Re: Does this sound like Alzheimer's or dementia?

Chancey, welcome to the board. I hate you need to be here but glad you found us. Martha is right, there are great people here who have been where you are and she has given you lots of excellent advice. I agree that it does sound like my Mom in her early states of Alz. One thing I did discover was that what I was hearing long distance was only the tip of the ice burg. Mom stopped doing accounting for her last two accounts and was no even keeping a check book balance in her own check book. She was ordering items via phone and the internet, then not remembering she ordered them, and not paying for them.... or putting monthly charges on her credit card. She was forgetting appointments and buring pots. Now I understand why the fire department ended up at the house. She had put a rag over a lap, turned it on and walked out, forgetting it was there and then not knowing what to do when the room became smokey. The drug store was aware that meds were not being taken right because Mom was attempting to refill prescriptions before it was time or long afterwards. Her friends knew something was not right because she couldn't keep up with the cards played in her bridge game any more. Spoiled food littered the refrigerator and she repeatedly bought the same items over and over.

I highly recommend that your Mom be given the Mini Mental that Martha spoke of. Then she needs to be seen by a Geriatric Neurologist or a Memory Assessment Center. From experience I can tell you, it's better to know what you are dealing with than to speculate.

You do need to make sure that somebody has a durable power of attorney from your Mom. It is also helpful if somebody else's name is on any financial accounts or there are adequate POA's in place so somebody else can handle her affairs. Then somebody needs a separate medical power of attorney and she needs to complete a living will or medical directive. I can not stress the importance of these legal documents enough. I can not even begin to imagine how we would have dealt with Mom and Dad's affairs without them!!!

How far is your Mom from you and is there somebody close to her that can check on her?

Again, welcome to the board and I look forward to hearing more from you.

Love, deb

 
Old 05-24-2009, 08:02 AM   #4
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Re: Does this sound like Alzheimer's or dementia?

Thank you so much for your kind words! I really appreciate it.

Martha, my mother did have a memory test with a neurologist a few years ago, as well as many physical tests. Nothing came from that appointment. Everything checked out fine and she passed the memory test with flying colors. Or so she told me anyway. Unfortunately, she went to that appointment alone. She's been tested for urinary tract infections more than once since this started, but has always been negative. As for Lyme, she doesn't live in an area known for Lyme Disease and hasn't travelled for many years. Interesting possibility though. It would be wonderful if it turned out to be something that's potentially treatable, although my gut feeling is that it's Alzheimer's. I didn't realize that there were geriatric neurologists. Good to know. My family will have to look into that.

Deb, when you mentioned your mom bought certain things over and over, I remembered that a while ago when I was visiting my mom I cleaned out her cupboards and found several boxes of the identical cereal scattered throughout her kitchen. I didn't really think about it too much at the time, and in fact, we had a good laugh about it, but looking back, I guess that was a little strange.
I agree with you that it's better to know what we're dealing with. My dad, my siblings and I have all been anxious over this for quite some time, but each time she sees a doctor, nothing comes of it. Meanwhile, we know something is definitely wrong. It's come to the point where it's apparent even to friends and acquaintances. Oh, and another thing I've noticed is that she's nervous about doing things that were once common place for her. Social situations seem to really cause her anxiety. Anything 'new' seems very overwhelming for her.

Thankfully, she has my dad there to look out for her, but if this gets worse it will be more than he can handle on his own. That's why we're hoping to have some definitive answers soon so that appropriate steps can be taken.

Thanks again so much for all your good suggestions and advice. We'll keep pursuing answers on this and hopefully find out soon what we're dealing with.

Chancey

 
Old 05-24-2009, 09:55 AM   #5
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Re: Does this sound like Alzheimer's or dementia?

I do understand where you are chancey because I was there a few years back. You know there is something wrong but you can't find a doctor that can tell you what it is. Mom was diagnosed with depressions which mimics early ALZ symptoms. She did well on her memory test but she is a very intelligent woman. Even after she was diagnosed with moderate to sever dementia consistent with ALZ by a memory assessment research service.. she still scored a 28 out of 30 on the mini mental. It was the MARS that finally diagnosed what we already knew.

As for your Mom saying all was well and she did well on the test. Take that with a grain of salt. You might want to contact that doctor and see what the reports really were. When Mom walked out of MARS she had tons of excuses for why she couldn't answer the questions they ask and to this day believes it was a flawed test and she did well enough on it to pass it with flying colors. She told all of her friends that all the test went well and she was fine!!!! Her general physician didn't help either. When I questioned him about her driving he just told her that she needed to focus more when she drove Earth to doctor... she was just diagnosed with ALZ!!!!!! It was her second visit with MARS when her driving privileges were finally taken away from her. So it is very important to get her to a doctor that knows ALZ.... a geriatric neurologist, a cognitive or memory assessment service, or a good geriatric physician. Sad to say, main street doctor's are not that informed!!!

The hints we had early.... stories repeated over and over, irrational behavior that didn't fit the situation, stopped keeping her check register, strange items arriving in the mail (she didn't remember ordering them), strange bills, bills not being paid timely or being paid twice, pots disappearing from the kitchen (burned and thrown out), obcessions with doing things over and over (washed all her windows three times in two weeks), forgetting appointments, buying some items repeatedly and forgetting to get others, money disappearing with no explanation (she went to the ATM repeatedly), medication mistakes (pharmacist informed me they were refilling pills too often) and so many other unexplained occurrences. She had explanations for each and over occurrence that sounded believable but when you put them all together it was obvious that it was more than just unconnected odd situations.

Glad you have your Dad to watch over your Mom and it is good that you are all on the same page as to knowing their is something wrong. Now you just need a proper diagnosis. I would start with a call to her doctor to see how the test really went and then a referral to an appropriate doctor that can diagnose her condition. I do wish you luck and hope you come back often and let us know how it is going for all of you.

Love, deb

 
Old 05-24-2009, 10:20 AM   #6
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Re: Does this sound like Alzheimer's or dementia?

Deb, where were you 4 years ago when I realized that there was something ever so wrong with dad? Your sage advice would have saved me so much grief. You were probably here - it was I that wasn't. I didn't know support systems existed.

Sometimes, back in the day, I even thought it was ME! He was so convincing that all the odd things he did were just silliness. But it was stage 4 dementia.

Chancey, these ladies on this board KNOW. They really do. I am still learning how to deal with dad...and I expect I will never have it totally learned. Stay in touch on this board...and realize that all the posters here are completely unshockable, giving and warm hearted people.

I wish you peace...

...lil' deb

 
Old 05-24-2009, 10:30 AM   #7
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Re: Does this sound like Alzheimer's or dementia?

I wish I was me when Mom started!!!! We are all a work in progress and why this board is so very wonderful. Hindsight is 20/20 but when you are in the early stages we all tend to be a little blind ....... including ME!!

Love, deb

PS... Now I am off to visit with Mom and Dad for a while because sister 3 and 4 are not coming today. Sister 4 had to have her puppy put to sleep yesterday and she's a basket case. Yes Diane, I did call her last night when I found out and was very kind and sympathetic! No matter what she has done to me in the past I know this was traumatic for her.

 
Old 05-24-2009, 07:07 PM   #8
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Re: Does this sound like Alzheimer's or dementia?

Chancy

You can't wait until it is so bad that Dad can't take care of her. YOU must have a general discussion and get power of attorneys and Medical Directives/Living Wills, or MPOA's (medical Power of Attorney). Make sure your father's name is on the checkcing accounts, etc.

If your mother needs to go into a nursing home, your father is protected for living in the house since its probably in both their names. Your father should be starting the medicaid process.

And if your mother ever needs to go to a nursing home, its better that she does it from a hospital.

Hope your Memorial Day Weekend was okay

CaringSister54

 
Old 05-25-2009, 06:43 AM   #9
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Re: Does this sound like Alzheimer's or dementia?

I truly wish that locked ALZ units were included on the medicaid approved list. They are wonderful for the otherwise healthy ALZ patient who does not need a NH for medical reasons. If it is within your financial means it is well worth checking out. It cost us about $6,500 a month for both parents. We actually get a price break because there are 2. They receive all the care they need in their activities of daily living, there is a nurse on duty, and a med tech that dispenses their medications. The staff is trained in caring for those with dementia. When the end comes they call in hospice and deal with them as if they were home. We have found it the perfect solution.

Love, deb

 
Old 05-25-2009, 08:29 AM   #10
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Re: Does this sound like Alzheimer's or dementia?

My mother was not in a special Alzhimer unit. There were patients there with other problems. But Medicaid took over the payments because she was unable to walk after the hip break. She was handicapped physically as well as mentally.

However, it was 100% escape proof! There was a code you had to type in if you used the elevator. Each patient had a device on their wheelchair or on their outer clothing so that if they went through an outer door (to the street) alarms would go off. If they only went through an inner door (to the circular courtyard in the middle,) no alarms went off. As a visitor we had to sign Mom out if we wanted to take her outside, and we were then responsible to get her back.

Many of the residents had memory problems, but some may have had a mental illness or physical illness. Some were so much younger than Mom that I often wondered why they were there, as they seemd normal. One man always complained that none of his 5 children EVER came for a visit. Much later we learned from one of the nurses aides that his entire family came to visit him often - he just didn't know it ten minutes later.

I wish you luck in your search.

Love,

Martha

 
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