Is my husband's disorientation a product of alcoholism or dementia?

14 answers | Last updated: Oct 22, 2016
Puddintame asked...

My husband is an alcoholic with a family history of dementia. His mother and grandmother both had it. When he gets up in the middle of the night he is frequently disoriented for approximately 5 to 15 minutes of not knowing where he is. Is this normal for an alcoholic or should I be more worried?


Expert Answers

Mikol Davis, PhD has worked in community hospitals with geriatric patients suffering from dementia, depression, and other psychiatric problems. He has a doctorate in Psychology from the University of San Francisco and has been in private practice in Marin County, California. Davis co-founded AgingParents.com with his wife, Carolyn Rosenblatt.

Dear Wife of an Alcoholic,

Here is my short answer about whether or not you should be concerned about your husband's nighttime disorientation. YES!!

Unfortunately alcohol does permanently kill brain cells. Your husband has a biological pre-disposition for dementia. The first telephone call you need to make is to get a referral to a neurologist who can order a neuropsychological evaluation. This will help provide you and your husband with critical answers to your health concerns.

In contacting the physician, sure to give specific detail about his night waking and disorientation. I can be helpful to keep a log for a week or two, noting how long he is disoriented each time.


Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

If he is a frequent drinker, just how do you think she's going to get him to a Dr. Office when he doesn't want help & tells you he doesn't need help? Nothing you can do, right? You've got nothing, life stays the same!Have to live with it until they fall flat on their faces & get hauled to hospital & then they wil still refuse to quit! So you live with it or leave ! Seen this happen too many times _ I'd rather you find a cure for Cancer Or Emphesema which my husband just died from, those are more important !get the priorities straight !


Puddintame answered...

The reason I answered helpful to both answers to my question, was that I am in the middle of this. I can see both answers. Dr. Davis is right that he needs to see a neurologist and the other caring member is coming from a more realistic answer. If you do not live with a person with an addiction it is very hard to understand. All the professionals see is the solution. They do not see all the obstacles in the way. Either you deal with it or leave. Hard choices either way. I just have to find out where I stand in this place called life... with an addict or without.


The clean life answered...

I hope your husband can see that he needs help with his alcohol addiction, but sometimes it takes the alcoholic to really hit rock bottom or something terrible to happen before they can see the light. I can say this because I was one of those alcoholics. Keep and positive attitude with your husband and tell him that he can break this addiction, but he must truly want to quit drinking first and help himself before he can be helped by others. Stay strong and keep positive and all will work out for the both of you.


Puddintame answered...

I want to say thank you to all who answered this question of mine. To Mikol Davis, That is very helpful suggestion, to go see a neurologist. I will try hard to get him to go. But like the anonymous person said... sometimes they just will not go and there is nothing you can do.... since I first posted this question a lot of changes have happened. I have realized that all of my worry is just making me sick... I have to focus on me in order to better help him. If I constantly worry about him and his health (something he cares nothing about) I will end up sicker than him... where will we both be then? It is an uphill struggle... you wonder and worry will he wake up.. will he get hurt at work... will I have to take care of another disabled dementia patient.??? facts of life.
Thank you "the clean life" I will try hard to keep positive. I never want to feel guilty that I didn't do enough to help him quit. I try not to judge, If this is what makes him happy with his life. who am I to stop him.. but I will tell him what it will do to his health and his life.. just so he knows. He loses days and nights, he loses time with his family, he loses opportunities . He loses with his health. if with all that is said he still continues... who am I???


Unclefizz answered...

Hi there. Your answer will be found at AL-Anon. Look in your phone book for the number and when you get it call call call! You need help and these are people who have gone through it and/or are going through it now. I wish you the best!


Unclefizz answered...

This answer is not for your husband, It is for you. This is a serious problem and you need help. As to the medical aspect, this is a medical problem and needs to be answered by medical personnel. UncleFizz again


Dimora answered...

I have struggled with alcoholism for years to be here now myself is a mystery to me. There must be a way out; I've been to Al-Non, AA meeting and classes but I still cannot shake this addiction when I am stressed. My sister says she is just disappointed. I have a husband that has been diagnoised with Alz/dememtia and I spiral everytime he gets sick. He asked one day was I trying to kill myself? I answered no, does it appear that way to you and he said yes!

That's when I realized I need me and he needs me no meeting will ever be that real! Hopeful


Adadan answered...

My husband is also an alcoholic with signs of dementia and family history of AZ. He does does not accept he has drinking problem, I have tried dozens of ways to bring him to realize his problem only to anger him with verbal abuse etc. He takes many prescription drugs everyday besides the alcohol and sleeping pills and xanax. If he runs out of gin he will jump to whiskey or run to the store to get it.I have a handicapped daughter living with us. I can not leave. I have come to the conclusion he is a walking time bomb and he will explode, but he knows the consequences and doesn't care. Every morning I check in on him is he still breathing, what will he wake up like today? Like walking on eggshells. He buys his liquor so not an option not to have it in the house. He is very controlling. In the end nothing I can do. Like others have posted I can't take him to Dr. or discuss with Dr. he is the only who is always right. I gave up on him because this has no solution until he falls flat on his face or ends up in a hospital. I am saving all the liquor receipts (every other day or sometimes every day) because if he dies here at home the cause of death will be his drinking and I have proof.


A fellow caregiver answered...

My husband has been a lifelong heavy drinker and was very adept at hiding it from me. Socially he behaves but when I'm not RIGHT THERE he drinks from dawn to dusk....then he can barely stand. He joined AA merely to get me off his back but clearly has no intention of stopping drinking. He is beginning to exhibit all the signs of alcoholic dementia but refuses to go to any more doctors. I sent him to an internist for a thorough physical thinking that his liver enzyme tests would come back high and that his liver must be the size of a basketball by now, but ironically there was nothing wrong besides a bit of high cholesterol. I'm now trying to live with his behavior since he won't change---I must be the one to change the way I deal with his addiction. Sadly he has done some things that show extremely poor judgement which are impacting our marriage. I am seeing a psychologist that is trying to help me manage my reactions to his bad lifestyle, but it's very difficult in a whole myriad of ways to exist. He keeps telling me that it's all my fault, but since he's been drinking his entire adult life and we have only been married for 11 years I don't "buy" this crap. He's 63 and needs to realize that he has a problem.


Blckft answered...

I have been married to an alcoholic with a family history of AZ for 25 yrs. Just tonite, before I logged in here, he told me he wanted a divorce. I said "no, I won't file and I won't sign" Before I knew it he had turned it around and told our son that I was threatening to leave him. My son looked at him and replied matter of factly, If she hasn't left yet, she's not going to. Every few hours it is something else. Either my son wants to fight him or the neighbors are stealing from him, etc. I have been to AL-ANON, a psychologist, my pain dr is now referring me to a pyshiatrist. He won't see any drs except his heart doc. Swears he is dying anyday, but all his tests come back fine. He says drinking beer is no different from drinking water. I just take one day at a time and remember some key phrases, I didn't cause it, I can't control it, and I can't cure it. It's not me, it's not him, it IS the disease. I wouldn't leave him if it was brain cancer destroying his mind, I won't leave over this. Hang in there, take a deep breath and say I love You every chance you get...


Rollarcoasterlife answered...

puddinfame, your last three words...'who am I???" You are someone who loves someone that has demons. You can't fix his demons. Find a source, as suggested previously, Al-Anon, learn all you can about this excruciating disease. Knowledge is power. It can propel you on your journey moving forward. I too, am on a troubled journey. I wish you strength and peace.


Denialsangel answered...

Wow, sitting here reading these posts and wonder who is peaking into my life. I too am a significant other to an alcoholic. It has gotten really bad in the last 2 1/2 years. He has been to rehab three times, just getting out last Thursday and already drinking again. It is worse this time as he is very disoriented, confused, very moody, and like everyone has described above, doesn't think he has a problem. He doesn't remember anything and I find myself repeating myself over and over which is driving me insane. He too, is in denial of his problem. Before he wasn't that awful, but in the last week he has been hard to deal with. I have been to Al-non, family classes, counselor, etc. I wish you all the strength and courage each day to deal with your loved one. It is truly hard and draining.


Cindyburned answered...

I just put my brother, 64 yo, in a nursing home yesterday due to alcoholism. He had a major convulsion, now brain damage. Pretty incoherent. Had I known I would have done something, I was unaware. Those of you that are aware can do something, it is your choice.. You can do something. Don't let this happen to you. It will ruin you financially, emotionally and leave your loved one so brain damaged they may be better dead. You can have them leave, admit for treatment (do not try it wo dr. supervision), take the medicine that makes you sick if you drink or smash their head with a hammer. Because if you don't do something that could be the end result. I would give anything to have my brother back, but I did not know. What is important? My brother will never leave the home. Ask yourself - is it worth looking the other way? I am so sad for all of you, wish I were there for a positive shoulder. Good luck!