Is this Alzheimer's or normal memory loss?

6 answers | Last updated: Nov 03, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother has been experiencing memory loss problems for several years. We have noticed that it's getting much worse. She repeats herself constantly, telling the same story over and over or will ask the same question over and over in just a few minutes time. She has trouble remembering dates/times unless she writes them on her calendar and even then will show up at the wrong time. We have tried to get her to agree to testing, but she tells us that her doctor thinks she is fine. She won't let any of us go to her appointments with her. She is still able to do most everything to take care of herself - cook ,drive, etc. We just want to know if she has this disease so she can get on some medication to slow it down. She is convinced that we are trying to put her in a nursing home (which is what we are trying to avoid!) She has also become less social - no longer attends her knitting group, game group or lunch with friends. When I ask her why, she says "those people drive me crazy". Her mother had Alzheimer's and we don't know if it is genetic. Do you think this is "normal" aging memory loss? Alzheimer's? Dementia? Thank you for your time.



Community Answers

Psdorsey answered...

Your mother's symptoms are spot-on to my own dad. He has been diagnosed with dementia, in which his mother also experienced. As of lately, he has progressed to episodes of anger and sometimes violent episodes. Since he too, will not allow family to attend his doctor appts, with thirty years medical experience, I expect that my dad is having early stages of Alzheimers. Since I am not a physician, all i can do is offer my nonprofessional opinion, in that I do think that dementia is hereditary, but I also believe that a person can take certain measures in order to slow the progression. For example, I have been told that excessive amounts of sugar in a person's diet causes memory loss. There are tasteless drops on the market that you can put in a person's food and/or drink that stops the craving for sugar. As you know, this is a difficult period to experience and I wish you well and offer the advice as to try not to take things to heart as you go through it together.


Joannstaats answered...

My older sister is the same way. SHE LIVES ALONE AND WE WORRY ABOUT HER. she will not let anyone help. THE BIG THING IS SHE WILL NOT WASH HERSELF OR HER HAIR. AND WEARS THE SAME THING EVERYDAY.


Liebchen answered...

Well-put thoes are the very sighns i am experiencing with my Swetheart of 58 years. also i have a Sister in another staat 1500 miles away that does not want any input fromj the rest of her siblings even though she is 91. thanks for the answers you give


A fellow caregiver answered...

Its very unfortunate that the children of Alzheimer's patients can't make our parents mind or listen to us. Our parents know they have seniority over us; they will always be our parents and we need to respect that. My best suggestion for going to their doctors appointments is to allow them to invite you. Allow your parents to suggest you going with them. My Mom and I did the buddy system as far as doctors appointments go. We made it a girls day out! When it came to Dad, I suggested he get a physical every year similar to the one he had for work. He's paid for it and should use the insurance. After the appointment we'd (Mom & I) get lunch and/or go shopping. It was easier for me, I worked evenings just for that reason (we are a family of 9 but the one that helped me the most lived out of state). I remember Mom talking about her insurance, if she should die or become incapacitated and/or doesn't recognize anyone. Like a child I didn't want to hear about her death. I later found that same envelope with the same message. I believe now she was aware of her illness and didn't have anyone the talk to. What I'm saying is - you'll have to listen to your loved ones when they converse with you. REALLY LISTEN! They might not always remember like they did when they were younger but somewhere, somehow they're trying to get their message to us. Mom experienced two strokes and a severe heart attack which the doctors pronounced her dead. One time returning home from work she suffered a head trauma in a bus accident. I believe all of the above contributed to her illness. Yes, we Mom/I were aware of - she called it "her dictionary wasn't working" (when she'd forget a word/we'd fill in the blank). Its very important to have your loved ones diagnosed. Contact your local Alzheimer's association. There are Safe Return Home organizations; GPS bracelets can help you registrar your loved one should the turn up missing. There are many articles of individuals driving, walking getting lost, confused and some are found dead. There are Social Workers at the hospitals that can give you information on the disease, stages, what to expect, a book named 36 hours in a Day. I didn't have the luxury to read the book then but the Social worker was kind of enough to copy the stage(s) when I described her personality changes. Communication on those lucid days are valuable. Your loved one can share arrangements, comments of likes and dislikes, choices to stay at home and/or in home care. I was blessed to have encounter strangers that recognized Mom's illness. Their acts of kindness were difficult to accept - this stranger stopped to help us! They insisted and I was grateful! There truly are angels that watch over, carry us went it gets difficult. Remember to stay thank you and pass that kindness on. Please know what you're able to do, what you decide for your loved one can take a toll on your health, have a network (family, friends, organizations). Don't be afraid to love them and say that you love those close to you.


A fellow caregiver answered...

This is the beginning of dementia but with time will eventually turn into Alzheimer's. You can't be concerned too soon. The fact that a person is resenting your help with their independence shares a lot of light on where she is at with this forgetfulness. People with memory loss get very defensive. Begin now to get help from people who are professionals in this arena before you lose her completely. My sister Gina was sharp as tact and the best in the industry where she worked. She had several falls in her life and quickly deteriorated with her last fall. She started misplacing things and forgetting important tasks at work. Her job eventually let her go. She became frustrated and isolated herself from friends and family. Her younger sister came to live with her and began to notice that she was having trouble expressing herself, misplacing cash, checks, and other items in the household. She lost her enjoyment in life and began to be afraid. She became very defensive and felt she had to get out of the house at all hours of the day. She had a hard time sleeping at night. Unfortunately, her children became embarrassed of her behavior and had her placed in a locked facility. She is rarely seen by her children now and this makes her cry. Our family visit as often as possible, but we have no say in her medical condition. Plan now to learn as much as you can about the processes of aging, dementia and Alzheimer's, and know the difference between them.


A fellow caregiver answered...

My 84 year old mother has been diagnosed with 1) depression (2 doctors), 2) mild to moderate dementia (1 doctor) and 3) vascular dementia (1 doctor and 1 Nurse Practitioner ---- although the social worker who is hell bent on putting my mom in a nursing home now claims they said it's Alzheimer's). However, I only discovered recently that she has been on a drug, Metropolol, that causes the exact same symptoms as Alzheimers for 6 YEARS!!! Someone put her on it after she survived an aortic aneurysm (she should be dead!)

While I am not arrogant enough to claim this is the root of her problems, I did mention to a cardiologist that her memory and such had been getting bad since the AA. And in all that time, with all the doctors, nurses, NP and techs she has seen, all that go over her list of meeds, no one of them made note of the Metropolol! In fact, I asked the NP during our last visit if she was sure it was VasDem. She responded that 'we can never be sure..." And then I mentioned that others I know who had elderly parents have said they were fine until they started taking all the drugs. This woman looked that the computer screen and said; 'Well, there's not one thing here by itself that will do it..."

WRONG!!!

Plus, they had put her on Buspar which causes anxiety, confusion and hostility. THEN, they added an Effexor type drug. The Cardio office took her of the Met and I took her off the rest. After explaining the situation to another hospital, they advised a Neurological assessment rather than a geriatric assessment. It turns out I reached a 'kindred spirit'. The woman to whom I spoke has a husband that got screwed up by Metropolol side effects!

I asked the coworker who's mom was experiencing weird symptoms had heart problems. She had/has. I asked if she was on Metropolol. She checked her meds list. Yep! Her mom was on it!

I may find out that it was all a coincidence, although I'm noticing subtle changes. Not major but enough to give me a sliver of a hope. Enough so to encourage all of you to CHECK THE MEDS! If the doctor blows you off, remember this; there are far too many doctors in far too many hospitals in far too many cities in far too many states to just go with one or two opinions.

Be your parent's advocate. Once they're in a nursing home, the game is over. Some rent-a-doc will keep giving her meds to keep them 'under control'.

Fight the good fight!