My mother is losing her memory. How can I get her to see a doctor?

3 answers | Last updated: Sep 10, 2016
Khelp asked...

She doesn't sleep at night at all. She claims her neighbor has someone on the back porch talking and playing music all night. She now claims they are out to kill her. She calls the police repeatedly and they have told her several times not to call back and she needs her medicine. I spent the night with her on the weekend and didn't get a wink of sleep. Every time I'd doze off she would tip down stairs and call me to come hear them. Needless to say no one was there. She has placed cardboard at the windows. Triple locks on doors with two dead bolts, slide latches and a stick behind that. She claims she can hear inside the house next door from inside her house. She also claims the mail man is stealing her mail. She shows up at my house after I've worked to 1 or 3 AM ringing the door bell. I asked her to stop calling the police or they will incarcerate her on medical reasons and just come over before I go to work and stay the night. She only did it once and slept through the night. She stays home and keeps showing up in the wee hours of the morning. I do have a Power of Attorney what should I do?

Expert Answers

Brenda Avadian, brings knowledge, hope, and joy to family caregivers for loved ones with Alzheimer's and dementia. She cared for her father with Alzheimer's and helps families one-on-one and in groups. She is the author of eight books, including the pioneering memoir "Where's my shoes?" My Father's Walk through Alzheimer's and the Finding the JOY in Alzheimer's series. She presents vivid, compelling, and funny keynotes to both professional and family caregiving audiences.

It sounds like your mother is experiencing the hallucinations and paranoia characteristic of the early part of middle-stage dementia from your description.

Beyond a "virtual diagnosis" by a non-medical professional, it's important that she receive a complete assessment by a geriatric assessment team. Only this will give you an indication of what her diagnosis is and how you can help.

These first three of these FIVE TOOLS will help medical professionals diagnose[] your mother's condition.

Has she refused to see a doctor?

You could see what motivates her to take action.

My father (initially diagnosed with dementia and later, Alzheimer's) didn't want to bother until I explained it was for me and for research. Then he was eager to go.

Does your mother care about you enough to get a geriatric assessment because you want her to? As her attorney in fact (her POA), you may want to call for help from your local Alzheimer's Association, Alzheimer's Disease Resource Center, or Department on Aging, to see if a case worker who can talk with your mom about taking steps to insure her safety. She may not like the idea of a stranger entering her home, but with you present, she may listen to someone (else) who is a professional.

Bottom Line: As exhausting as her behavior is for you, try to really imagine if YOU were living in constant fear. She's living a pretty scary life, right now and needs help.

Community Answers

What is happening? Your mother is likely experiencing the paranoia and delusions common to certain stages of specific dementias. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common dementia to cause this type of behavior. However, it is very important that your mother be thoroughly evaluated by a qualified geriatric physician or gerontologist. This behavior can be caused by or exacerbated by many other factors common to the elderly population often referred to as delirium. I see this in my practice on a daily basis. It can be caused by: • Medication – The elderly cannot tolerate the same dosage given to the younger population. Common culprits include: antidepressants, sedatives, pain medicine, muscle relaxants, cimetidine (Tagamet), digoxin, over-the-counter antihistamines, sleeping pills, corticosteroids drug interactions and more. • Physical Condition - dehydration, persistent urinary tract infection, abnormal blood levels of calcium, sodium or magnesium, thyroid dysfunction, liver or kidney dysfunction, sleep deprivation, stress and more.

Many of my patients with symptoms like your mother’s do have a dementing disorder which is made worse by the some of the issues mentioned above and by environmental factors that trigger behaviors.

What to do? Your mother is at risk in her current situation. She may not be safe living alone. She is delusional and does not have the ability to reason. You cannot expect her to remember or to follow your directions. You may need to speak with your attorney about your legal ability to mandate a medical evaluation of your mother’s condition. Make certain you attend and describe her behavior to the physician. Check her home for medication to determine what and how much she is taking. Make a list of her behaviors and your concerns and take it with you to the appointment. Most of all, remember this is one of the most difficult things you will ever face. There is much support in doing so. Reach out. You are not alone.

My best wishes and remember to take care of yourself. Connie Lambert, PhD, PT, CCM

Sable02 answered...

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