How can I help my husband see that he needs to have some tests done to diagnose his Alzheimer's?

2 answers | Last updated: Oct 02, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My husband's doctor is trying to get him to go to a psychiatrist for help with what we believe is Alzheimer's. My husband refuses to go. His doctor has had him on arricept for almost a year and after some dramatic issues has upped the dosage to 10mg. The latest issue happened when my husband called me home from work in a panic that he couldn't find our boys. He said he knew I had done something with them because he had looked everywhere and couldn't find them. I tried to calm him down over the phone but he became even more stressed that he couldn't find the boys. (our youngest is 36 yrs old. I went home immediately and it took me about 15 minutes to calm him down and make him understand the boys were grown. Then he told me he must have been sleeping and woke up from a dream. There have been a few bad times in the past two months after years of just repeating things and forgetting things constantly. He even insisted that we go visit his dad who died over 40 years ago. When I tried to make him understand that he finally said we needed to go see him to make sure. Most of the time when he is around someone he doesn't see often they think he is just a little forgetful. My stepchildren (all adults) are not taking this seriously and actually got upset that we wanted him to go to a psychiatrist. I am trying to work as long as I can but have cut down on my hours. I am already exhausted.My husband is retired law enforcement and has trouble not being in control but has slowly been turning over routine things he always did before such as paying bills and taking care of our dogs. Is there anything I can do to make his see that he needs to go to the psychiatrist and have some tests done?

Expert Answers

Joanne Koenig Coste is a nationally recognized expert on Alzheimer's care and an outspoken advocate for patient and family care. She is the author of Learning to Speak Alzheimer's. Also, she currently is in private practice as an Alzheimer's family therapist. Ms. Koenig Coste also serves as President of Alzheimer Consulting Associates, implementing state-of-the-art Alzheimer care throughout the United States.

Oh my, this must be so incredibly difficult for you to be dealing daily with your husband's obvious cognitive decline and for you to be doing so without much support. There is definitely something organic causing issues with his memory and it certainly could be Alzheimer's (AD) or one of the other dementing illnesses that are neurologically based and marked by some of the manifestations you have mentioned such as not recalling ages of close family members and thinking his dad is still alive. Although these must be so frightening for you, they are hallmarks of these progressive neurologic dementia. The best possible scenario would be to have someone he trusts (perhaps your son or daughter?) talk to him about the need to 'rule out' diseases that may keep him from 'getting insured' or some such fiblet or white lie. This is a way of not having to say something is wrong with him but to imply some other factor needs to be addressed. The purpose of this seemingly covert conversation is simply to get him to the appropriate doctor for further evaluation as soon as humanly possible...time really is of the essence since no treatment plan can be devised until it is known what the diagnosis is...what really is causing the dementia? I would suggest you tell him that you also have to go for the same appointment - do accompany him and indicate your appointment was postponed after the doc sees hubby. Use whatever means you need; no matter how counter-intuitive fibbing may be, it may be the ONLY way to assure getting him to this much-needed visit. The best way you can plan for the future is to know for certain what is causing these less-than-normal behaviors. Your husband and his family's denial only leads to delay which may lead to dismay for everyone! I truly hope you are able to get this appointment ASAP. You really need to find ways to care for yourself. I hear your frustration and sadness. A support group for caregivers can be found by calling the local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association in your state. There are also online support groups for those caregivers who feel they can't leave their spouse alone to attend meetings. Either way, you will find needed relief in sharing with people who really DO know what you are going through and can give honest realistic support. Be well.

Community Answers

Lwaug answered...

Thank you Joanne. It is difficult but with the grace of God I am adjusting to this 'new kind of normal'. I am talking with my husband daily about this when he says he 'just doesn't feel right' and I have mentioned tests that can be done to help find an answer to why he doesn't feel right. I don't want to scare hime but I do want him to understand. I believe deep in my heart that he knows what is happening at there have been a time or two that we have been able to talk about it. He refuses to even consider the possibility that it may be Alzheimer's Disease but even as he is saying it I can see it in his eyes that he knows the posibility is there. I think he may be getting closer to getting help. He seems to 'feel better' when I am home and gets upset when I have to go to work. I wonder if he is afraid to be alone. I am taking online classes and going for my associate's in social services and that is helping me to find some time for myself. When I am 'in class' I feel like I am relieved of some of the stress but at the same time I am just in the other room for him if he needs me. A support group sounds wonderful. I work in a grocery store and some of my customers are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease with parents or spouses and it really helps to be able to talk with them. Some days we have had the same things happen as far as behaviors and moods. One of my customers is an in home health care worker and she is a wealth of information and support. My neighbors are coming together with emotional support and I have started a list of volunteers. I have been working on putting together the caregivers package and am finding that extremely helpful as well. My seeking help for myself has made a big difference in my part of this. Please keep us in your prayers and give our Lord thanks for all of the wonderful people who come forward to lend a hand, shoulder and heart.