Should my mother with dementia be put in a care facility?

Cosmic thunderer asked...

My mother has bouts of dementia that can last weeks or just hours. Is that enough to have her commited to a hospital or nursing home??? Other days she is fine and on top of her game so would she be able to get out on those days?

Expert Answer

Beth Spencer is a social worker in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with more than 25 years of experience with families who have a member with dementia. She is coauthor of Understanding Difficult Behaviors and Moving a Relative with Memory Loss: A Family Caregiver's Guide. Previously, she directed Silver Club, early-stage and adult day programs serving individuals with Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses.

I'm not sure what you mean by a  "bout of dementia." The first question is whether your mother has been diagnosed with some form of dementia. The symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, don't usually fluctuate that much from day to day. There is one kind of dementia, Lewy Body Dementia, which does sometimes exhibit large fluctuations from day to day. But something else may be going on instead -- misuse of medications, mental illness, substance abuse, or some other problem. That's the first thing to figure out with the help of her doctor and other family members.  

In terms of "commitment to a hospital or nursing home," if she's "fine and on top of her game," some of the time, she doesn't sound like an appropriate candidate for a nursing home. And there's no such thing any longer as commitment to a hospital unless the person is a threat to themselves or others. It sounds as though she needs a good medical work-up by a reliable psychiatrist, neurologist, or geriatrician who is experienced with older adults.