HELP! I'M SCARED FOR MY MOM

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Hello everyone,

My mother is in her early 70s and is rather good health. She takes some medications for her acid reflux, her cholesterol, and her thyroid. She is a very active person, and is of a joyful and pleasant disposition. For the past few months, she's been complaining about recurrent forgetfulness. She was so worried about it that she asked me to handle her money. However, when she forgets things, she eventually remembers them a bit later.  When, I mentioned her concerns to her family doctor, I was told that the fact that I didn't notice any lapse in memory on her part, and that she can remember them eventually pointed away from dementia. 

However, today she had a really frightening episode of a sudden onset of disorientation. We went grocery shopping, and when we got off the bus she suddenly didn't know where we were. She kept asking me where the mall was, when it was right in front of us the whole time. I took her inside, and at first she was just as disorientated. After about 10 minutes or so however she was fine again and was able to navigate the mall and remembered every item we came to get. When we got on the taxi to get back home, she again had an episode and thought the taxi was going there wrong way. Upon seeing a building she often goes to, she once again found her bearings. 

Needless to say she is now petrified. After an hour or so, she asked me why she was so confused earlier. She even said that she remembers feeling confused, however she now can clearly see that the mall was right in front of us and all we needed to do was cross the road and go thought the parking lot. She even remembers the road the taxi took, but can't figure out why she was confused about it earlier. 

We were both deeply shocked by the sudden onset of confusion. I'm wondering if this points toward dementia, or maybe something else? 

I would really appreciate your input on this. Thank you in advance.

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  • Posted

    Hi Jay,

    I'm a (former) nurse too - specialised in neurology. I'm 73, so in the same age group as your mother.

    With respect, I'd beg to differ from poster jaylashanti.

    This might, of course, be the start of Alzheimer's. So many of us will go down to this disease that it's worth considering it as a possible diagnosis.

    However, you should also bear in mind the perfectly normal cognitive loss that affects us all as we age. I've had all kinds of alarms and excursions, starting 20 years ago, but I'm still capable of looking after myself (I live alone and have no children) as well as holding down a demanding voluntary job.

    My first scare came almost 20 years ago. I was doing some ironing, which included a fake-suede jacket. This required the use of a sleeve-board that I'd used several times a year for many years. The mechanism for putting it up is very simple, but on this occasion I couldn't figure out how to do it. I flew into a total panic, shaking like a leaf, but decided to put the jacket to the bottom of the ironing pile. When I finally reached it, I had no difficulty in putting up the sleeve board.

    I've used this tactic many times in the intervening years, when I've momentarily forgotten how to operate household appliances. I do something else, then return to the task in hand, by which time I have no problem at all.

    I've also had a few occasions where I've become disorientated and not recognised my perfectly familiar surroundings. I've handled these episodes in the same way, by sitting down quietly and avoiding panic until my normal cognitive powers return.

    I suspect that in my own case the absence of anyone - son or daughter - to look after me has thrown me on my own resources, with the result that I've always been able to pull myself together after these episodes. 20 years down the line, I don't think they're getting significantly worse.

    As already mentioned, these episodes might be the initial signs of dementia in your mother (and me!) but I don't think you should be too alarmed at this stage. From my own experience, both as a former neuro nurse and an ageing woman, I'd suggest that you keep an eye on your mother while at the same time allowing her the maximum of independence. A sense of responsibility for oneself can be a powerful tool in the fight against dementia.

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    • Posted

      Hello Lily, 

      Thank you so very much for your response. It is always great to hear from people dealing with the same issues. My mother started experiencing some awful headaches the same day, so I ended up taking her to the ER. We've been told that she probably experienced a TIA, and she is now undergoing a number of tests to figure out what to do next. I was also told to expect some normal cognitive loss in someone her age, as you've mentioned in your response. She sometimes gets a little forgetful, but she always remembers where she left the object in question a couple of minutes later. I haven't noticed any major changes in her memory other than the very scary episode she had last week. 

      I really hope you and my mother as well get to live your golden years in tranquility and health. Dementia is such a terrible thing to have to go through, I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. Thank you so very much for your very detailed and informative answer Lily, you have no idea how relieved I am after reading it. 

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  • Posted

    Hi Jay,

    There are a number of things to consider.

    1. As we all get older, our ability to remember can deteriorate, but there is no hard and fast "rule" for this happening, its simply a progression of the effect of age on ones body(including the brain).

    2. Again, associated with age, we are more inclined to become "forgetful" particularly in circumstances where we have a number of differing things on our mind, whether it be a shopping list of things to remember(when entering a supermarket) or as happens sometimes to myself, in that I will go upstairs to do something, but when I get there I see something else that needs doing, and temporarily forget about the reason I went upstairs in the first place.

    3.Pre-fronta-dimentia or the onset alzheimers affects the frontal cortex(just behind the forehead) where short-term memory resides, before it "transfers" to longer term memory towards the back of the brain. This deterioration in brain function is caused by a chemical which acts like a blocker, to the myriad of connections in the frontal cortex and this can become visible through a brain scan.

    One of the ways to counter the onset of alzheimers to persuade a person to try and develop routines for their various activities. A routine, once remembered embeds itself in the long-term area of memory and is thus more easily "remembered".

    Dimentia/Alzheimers does not negate memory unless it has progressed to a point where the sufferer has normally gone through all of the known "stages" of its progression, I.E my mother stepped outside her home, less that one metre from the front door, but did not know where she lived, nor did she recognise her home. She had developed full alzheimers over a period of years, before passing away at age 82 .

    My wife's mother who is now 92 first developed memory loss, following two operations 18 months ago where she was given an anaesthetic twice in 10 days; there is a known risk for older persons from this which can  cause memory problems, but apparently not known at this particular hospital! It  has now progressed slightly but she suffers occasionally from occasional lapses where she will repetitively do or say the same thing multiple times without realising she has done so. At other times her memory is fine(for age 92).

    The reality is that medical science does not really know too much of how and why alzheimers progresses, and it does not necessarily follow a common path in how it affects people or indeed why it can affect virtually all ages.

    Perhaps the best way to cope with episodes that do occur is to be sympathetic and use language which calms the person when a memory lapse occurs; it can actually just be a slight overload of their ability to remember something, resultant in a moment of "panic".

    There are many people who will try and provide "advice" which they think might be helpful, but although well intentioned it may in fact just provide a greater confusion to the listener. If you have any worries at all, it may be worthwhile to persuade your relative that a visit to a doctor might provide some measure of assurance, both to you and the relative.

    Incidentally both dementia and azheimers are common descriptors for what is really the same thing, i.e. the onset of memory loss, but should not be used where an individual simply begins to become forgetful through the natural progression of age whereby our ability to remember does fall off as we get older.

    In my younger days I did have what was termed and eidetic memory (I cant even remember its correct spelling now!), I mean a near perfect memory. At coming up for 72 my memory is beginning to let me down, but one brain scan later, I have been pronounced as NOT showing any signs of dementia in my frontal cortex, beyond what is expected as a normal deterioration for my age.

    Hope this helps.

    George

     

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    • Posted

      Hello George, 

      Thank you for your very thorough response, I really appreciate all the info you've given me. The doctors suspect that my mom had a TIA. She is now in the stroke prevention program undergoing a slew of tests. She had a CT scan which was completely normal. I've mentioned to them my worries about an onset of dementia in my mom. They were very sympathetic to my concerns and essentially told me that some cognitive loss is to be expected in someone her age (such as some of forgetfulness she's been complaining about), and that this is not a cause for concern. She is a very independent lady, so she doesn't like me hovering over her. She's been able to return to her usual routine, but I keep a close eye on her....I'm the worrier in the family cheesygrin

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  • Posted

    Jay

    Return to the Doctor take your Mother with you. Your GP can arrange various tests to prove what the problem is. There are various things that could be causing these problems, All Dementias are not ALZ , a diagnosis needs to be worked on. I went through the tests early last year and it was proven I had something different, your Mother is at a good age and will have memory concerns.

    There are sites on the web in the UK that deal with ALZ etc there you will get further information.

    Get Her down to see your Doctor, tell us how she gets on

    BOB

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    • Posted

      Hello Borderriever,

      Thank you for you response. The doctors suspect that my mom had a TIA. She is now in the stroke prevention program undergoing some tests. Her CT scan was completely normal as well. I've asked her family doctor to do some mental ability tests to rule out any onset of dementia. We are waiting for her to be scheduled for these tests. 

      Hopefully everything will turn out ok. 

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  • Posted

    i would say that i think  you need to get your mum tested thats how my mum was then she started to forget to pay her bills .the doctor told me she had alzheimers hers is short term memory loss. taught about the war she knows everything but ask her something then ask her again ten mins later and she,s forgot. i could not get her a bank card as she could not remember the pin , mum got me to get a p.o.a as she knew she would get worse. and i manage all her finances now.
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  • Posted

    This might, of course, be the start of Alzheimer's. So many of us will go down to this disease that it's worth considering it as a possible diagnosis.

    However, you should also bear in mind the perfectly normal cognitive loss that affects us all as we age. I've had all kinds of alarms and excursions, starting 20 years ago, but I'm still capable of looking after myself (I live alone and have no children) as well as holding down a demanding voluntary job.

    My first scare came almost 20 years ago. I was doing some ironing, which included a fake-suede jacket. This required the use of a sleeve-board that I'd used several times a year for many years. The mechanism for putting it up is very simple, but on this occasion I couldn't figure out how to do it. I flew into a total panic, shaking like a leaf, but decided to put the jacket to the bottom of the ironing pile. When I finally reached it, I had no difficulty in putting up the sleeve board.

    I've used this tactic many times in the intervening years, when I've momentarily forgotten how to operate household appliances. I do something else, then return to the task in hand, by which time I have no problem at all.

    I've also had a few occasions where I've become disorientated and not recognised my perfectly familiar surroundings. I've handled these episodes in the same way, by sitting down quietly and avoiding panic until my normal cognitive powers return.

    I suspect that in my own case the absence of anyone - son or daughter - to look after me has thrown me on my own resources, with the result that I've always been able to pull myself together after these episodes. 20 years down the line, I don't think they're getting significantly worse.

    As already mentioned, these episodes might be the initial signs of dementia in your mother (and me!) but I don't think you should be too alarmed at this stage. From my own experience, both as a former neuro nurse and an ageing woman, I'd suggest that you keep an eye on your mother while at the same time allowing her the maximum of independence. A sense of responsibility for oneself can be a powerful tool in the fight against dementia.

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