My mother seems to have odd symptoms with her Alzheimer's.

Orangeunsub asked...

My mother has Alzheimer's and every night complains of nausea and being sick to her stomach, sometimes after a meal, sometimes as soon as she gets out of bed. In addition, she wants to urinate all the time, sometimes legit and sometimes for almost no reason at all other than company.

Is this unique? Her doctors are befuddled.

Expert Answer

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.

Although some behavior may seem odd, it is most always not intentionally designed by the person with AD to bother the carepartner. It is understandable how a loving carepartner can feel befuddled by behaviors that do not seem to be the norm.

You most likely have already done this but if not, the most important first line of coping with this behavior is to have an appointment with a medical professional to rule out any treatable causes of the aberrant behavior. Might she have a urinary tract infection? Does she have an underlying digestive tract problem or other physical reason for the nausea?

It is not unusual to see this behavior as the disease progresses and the patient becomes less able to articulate real physical distress. She may not want to be incontinent and is fearful of having 'an accident' which leads her to urinate often. Likewise, she may confuse hunger with nausea and not recall whether or not she has, in fact, already had a meal. That information may not have been stored leading to her inability to remember what she has done during the last moments or hours.

With these basic guidelines stated, let me address what is most likely the more concrete reason for her seemingly odd behavior: She craves companionship! It is rather common for people with AD to feel most secure when near a loved one - a person who makes them feel the most secure. Your loving concern about her need to urinate or her feeling of nausea provides a kind of companionship for her.

I suggest you support her by not attempting to reason with her or explain when she last urinated or felt nauseous. Instead, attempt to refocus her to something positive that includes you (or another carepartner) each time she relates these physical issues. "Let's have a cup of tea together, Mom" or the moment she arises try, "Let's go to the bathroom and then have breakfast together". Some folks with seemingly repetitive behaviors are simply looking for something to do to help them feel they are still needed. Perhaps the next time Mom expresses nausea you smile and say, "That's too bad Mom. Can you help me fold the laundry?" If she states she has nausea, try "Here's some cool water. Will you help me put the dishes away?" Refocusing her behavior may help to break the repetitive pattern while helping her to feel that she is still a functional and needed adult.

Remember to take care of you!