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How to deal with a relative with Alzheimer's/dementia?

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  • Member since
    January 2006
  • From: NW Washington
How to deal with a relative with Alzheimer's/dementia?
Posted by dirkpitt77 on Monday, May 4, 2015 3:18 PM

   I'm 43--my mother is 63. For about the last five years, she's been having episodes of confusion, loss of cognition, dizziness, headaches, and tiredness. One time she even forgot how to get home from the Wal-Mart up the street. She's been playing it off as if nothing is wrong, but today I got a report from my stepdad (her hubby), that things are deteriorating. All the aforementioned symptoms plus a new obsession about reading every single sign she sees out loud as they drive. She's been to numerous different doctors, all of whom have either misdiagnosed her or failed to diagnose her at all.

    So, I'm kind of wondering what I may be getting into here. I'm the only offspring that still has a relationship with her. My brother hasn't talked to her in years, and her relationship with my sister is cool, at best. So, it will be up to me to care for my mother if she ends up having some sort of Alzheimer's or dementia issue. The tough thing is, she lives in Olympia, WA, and I'm in northern Colorado.

     Does anyone have experience dealing with a relative in a bad way like this? I'd sure be grateful if anyone has any advice.



    "Some say the alien didn't die in the crash.  It survived and drank whiskey and played poker with the locals 'til the Texas Rangers caught wind of it and shot it dead."

  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Monday, May 4, 2015 3:21 PM

Yes I do. I'll contact you backchannel. If her husband accepts this as a reality and is willing to help, it's a major step forward. There's no way to stop or cure it, but there are ways to keep some function going with therapy.

Modeling is an excuse to buy books


  • Member since
    November 2014
Posted by BLACKSMITHN on Monday, May 4, 2015 3:32 PM

That's tough news. Sorry to hear it. I would check with the Alzheimer's Association ( to see if they can tell you, first of all, whether your mom's symptoms match those of the disease. It may be something else entirely. They can also refer you to a local support group in your area. They also have phone support groups, I believe. Talking directly with folks who have actual experience with the kinds situations you'll likely encounter would be invaluable.

  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Monday, May 4, 2015 3:38 PM

That is exactly right. I also mentioned to Chris that securing her house is really important. Wandering off is an early, big problem. Let's hope it's something else.

Getting ID bracelets is really a good idea, for anyone.

Modeling is an excuse to buy books


  • Member since
    September 2003
  • From: AandF in the Badger State
Posted by checkmateking02 on Monday, May 4, 2015 4:21 PM

You mentioned that your mom has been misdiagnosed by some doctors.  I work with lots of elderly people professionally, and have seen some instances where medications have caused apparent dementia.  

If you can locate a clinic or hospital with a department that deals specifically with memory issues, she could be checked out for this.  Otherwise, the earlier posters have good advice for you.

It's a difficult situation to deal with, I know, and there aren't very many easy answers or ways to help out.





  • Member since
    March 2009
  • From: Yorkville, IL
Posted by wolfhammer1 on Monday, May 4, 2015 9:40 PM

Dirk, So sorry to hear your mom is having trouble.  There are many organizations that can give you a hand with your mom.  including the Alzheimer's association.  Check with your mom's doctor (assuming you have one that you trust) to see if that could recommend a local agency that could come in and help your mom on a day by day basis.  Good luck and take care of yourself.  


  • Member since
    April 2009
  • From: Longmont, Colorado
Posted by Cadet Chuck on Monday, May 4, 2015 9:42 PM

Dirk, I am sorry to hear that and I sympathize with you.  My mother in law had the terrible disease, and the only solution was to put her in a good nursing  home where she eventually died from the disease.  For the last few years, she was in another world and seemed not to be aware of anything, including her family around  her.  My prayers go out to you and her and the family.

Computer, did we bring batteries?.....Computer?

  • Member since
    November 2008
  • From: Far Northern CA
Posted by mrmike on Monday, May 4, 2015 10:01 PM

My sympathy for you and for your family. Unfortunately I have some experience with this; both my Mother in law and Stepmom were Alzheimer's patients. Unless there are issues with her medications, I would strongly recommend that your Stepdad & Mom get into a support group ASAP. These are typically divided into caregiver/patient groups, and are a great help to both. If it really is AD or another form of dementia, your Stepdad is going to be a participant in some way, but it will be too much for him to do 24/7.

Other posters have very good advice. Churches, local healthcare agencies & AD organization chapters are all good sources of info & references. On the business side, It will be best if your parents update their will & trust documents before Mom is formally diagnosed. Sorry to be so pragmatic, but it's a real life concern.

Please remember that this will play out over time, worry will not help. A series of informed, positive steps will make the journey easier for everyone.


  • Member since
    November 2008
  • From: Central Florida
Posted by plasticjunkie on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 7:25 AM

We have been dealing with my mother in law's condition for about 4 years now and its getting progressively worse. I will shoot you a PM.




Too many models to build, not enough time in a lifetime!!

  • Member since
    January 2006
  • From: NW Washington
Posted by dirkpitt77 on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 10:21 AM

I just want to say you guys are great. Thank  you so much for the advice and kind words, and especially to those who have PM'd so far. It's invaluable.

I forgot to mention that my mother has a seizure disorder for which she takes meds. I found out in the last few years that she has stopped taking them as prescribed and instead takes them like aspirin when she feels those symptoms, or the other symptoms, come on. So likely as not she is mis-medicated and that is causing issues as well.

I'm going to try to find out what I can do to enhance the communications between my mom and her doctor to make sure she is telling him everything. I don't think she is.  My stepfather, her husband, is not in the greatest shape either, having recently suffered a heart attack and then a stroke, so he won't be much help in managing my mom. He does have a clear head on him at least, so there's that.

Thanks again to all for the help and support. Maybe it's time to hit the bench for a little plastic therapy myself.  ;)  


    "Some say the alien didn't die in the crash.  It survived and drank whiskey and played poker with the locals 'til the Texas Rangers caught wind of it and shot it dead."

  • Member since
    December 2002
  • From: Massachusetts
Posted by ajlafleche on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 10:40 AM

I spent 21 years of my career working with people with seizure disorders. The meds used for seizures need to be at a therapeutic level to work so they have to be taken on schedule. She may be having small seizures which are causing confusion. She really needs to see a specialist who can do a full workup. There's a type of EEG that looks at brain activity over the course of a day or two which could detect seizure activity that doesn't show with typical symptoms. There are also quite a few relatively new  seizure meds that have minimal side effects and very good efficacy.

Given your distance, it is incumbent on her husband to take responsibility unless you can up and move near her. Re-reading his condition, getting her some daily assistance from a visiting nurse, adult foster care or similar agency would be very helpful. Does she have a health care proxy? If not, she should get one set up. It's a very easy process and her doctor or the WA state website may have one online. No legal assistance is required and it will allow the proxy to follow her wishes if she becomes temporarily incapacitated. Ultimately, a guardian may be required, but again your distance from her would make things problematic for you to take this on.

Good luck.

Remember, if the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.

  • Member since
    December 2009
  • From: Laurel, MD
Posted by Tucohoward on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 3:20 PM

Chris, sorry to here that. It will be four years ago this thursday that I lost my father from dementia. Your mom's reading of street signs really struck home with me. My father did a lot of that and repeat things said on tv. I wish I could give you some good news, but this is just a really tough thing for anyone to deal with. Your stepdad will definitely need a lot of help. I lived close to my parents so it was easier for me to help, but at the same time it's not easy to help someone who doesn't want help, and they get to that stage. Professional help is highly recommended. I will never understand how those people can deal with dementia patients all day, every day, but thankfully they are out there. I wish you and your family all the best in dealing with a very difficult situation.


The Mighty Mo says no.


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