My mom suffered a minor stroke a few years back which has resulted in the partial loss of use of her left side, and has possibly caused the onset of Alzheimer’s. In fact, my mom displays most if not all the Alzheimer’s symptoms, and whether the stroke was the cause is a moot point.
The purpose of this post is not about the diagnosis, but more to find out what experiential advice there might be for family members in an effort to help cope with the situation. My father, and mom’s partner of 47 years, is a man of immense patience, but during my last visit to the family home over Christmas I realised that he is taking incredible strain and his patience is being tested to the limits.
Are there any Doper’s in a similar situation who could offer some helpful guidance?
First, your mother needs an evaluation to determine whether or not she has Alzheimer’s. I say this because I infer from your post that she has not been diagnosed with AD. There are medications that slow down the rate of deterioration which could prove helpful to your mother, father and the family. If it is AD or another type of dementia, check to see if there is a local Alzheimer’s Association that could provide you with resources for getting help with care giving, etc. If your mother does have AD or another dementia, I would recommend getting some type of alarm system for their house. It does not have to be anything huge or expensive. There are alarm systems you can buy at places like Lowe’s or Home Depot that will beep if an outside door is opened when activated. This would be important to ensure that your mother does not roam outside. This is a fairly common thing to have happen when someone has AD or other types of dementia. Most important of all, love and cherish your mother. While she can still recall things, encourage her to talk about her life, things she’s seen, etc. It’ll give you memories that will be among the most cherished things you will ever have.
I hope this helps out Mellivora capensis. I went through this with my father. My mother was his primary caregiver and worried she wasn’t doing enough, but there’s only so much anyone can do. If your mother does have AD or another type of dementia, encourage him to take advantage of any respite services that may be available. Good luck. My thoughts and prayers are with your mother and father as well as your whole family.
Thanks swampy, much appreciated.
My family has never been very vocal nor demonstrative when it comes to matters of the heart. However, it would seem that my mom’s condition does have an upside. Since the stroke she’s taken to saying three words I’ve never heard from her before.
“I love you.”
You need to get your dad into some sort of consultation, as well. While it will be terribly hard on him just seeing your mom in her condition (especially if she has AD), he has to understand that there will come a time when he won’t be able to shoulder the burden alone.
My dad thought he could manage it alone. He lost 75 lbs, started drinking again after 20 years sober, and was at wits end. Advanced AD patients can’t do anything on their own, someone has to do every single thing for them. They have to be watched constantly to keep them from doing harm to themselves. So much as a nap is out of the question.
Mom couldn’t walk anymore (the Alzheimer’s shuffle and bad knees restricted her mobility), but she would try to get up and fall on the floor. She was almost impossible to get back in her chair. You can imagine trips to the toilet, shower, etc.
My mom never used foul language, but she reverted to cussing like a drunken sailor and became physically and verbally abusive to my dad. This just further helped to break his heart.
Putting mom in a nursing home was the hardest thing he ever had to do, I’m sure. But it saved his life.
So please seek out any support group early on. Plan ahead for the tough times to come, with any luck your family will be spared the full blown AD.
I second this. I have a family member (“Pearl”) who also suffers from both AD and the effects of stroke. Because of the AD, the symptoms of stroke were initially dismissed as more symptoms of AD. This is a problem because it caused the doctor to pronounce her AD much more advanced than it actually is. Once they understood which problems were actually caused by the strokes, they were much better able to accomodate her needs and to predict how they might change. Stroke-related symptoms won’t get better, but they can expect them not to progress in the same way that AD-related symptoms will.
It’s very, very important to understand - and to make sure the patient’s doctor understands - that people with AD are still prone to other physical and mental illness. AD can’t be used as a catch-all diagnosis for every symptom or complaint.
What a coinicidence. I just made a post in my LJ about my mother and Alzheimer’s. There was a previous thread here about Alzheimers that I just couldn’t respond to, let’s see if I can finish this post.
My mother started having problems in March of this year, she went to the hospital for chest pain and all they could find was that she had an electrolyte imbalance from drinking too much water. In May she had herself taken to the psychiatric ward of the local hospital where she was treated for psychosis and depression. We asked the doctor if it could be Alzheimers but he said no, it was more of a pseudo-dementia. He did no diagnostic tests. She was transferred to an Assisted Living Facility and went back to the psychiatric hospital once again when she got very agitated. Then back to another ALF where she wandered away in the middle of the night and was taken to a different hospital where they did a catscan and MRI and thought she might have had a stroke at some point. She was sent back to the ALF but put in the ward for patients with dementia so she could not wander.
My sister and I took her to a memory disorder clinic for testing for Alzheimers in September/October because we thought her psychiatrist was full of crap. At the memory clinic they see a few doctors/psychologists and do various tests over a few weeks time. They asked us if we wanted to do a pet scan since it would be diagnostic but it was an optional test even though it would be covered by her insurance. I said “do it”, I didn’t see the point of leaving off the one test that could be definitive. My mother was still talking then but a little withdrawn. In October we met with them for the last time and they told us that according to the pet scan she had advanced Alzheimers. She was already on the Aricept-like drug and all they could really do was add some Omega 3 fish oil supplements because they may help slow the deterioration a little bit.
My mother lived alone but was only two houses away from my brother. She lost my father 3 years ago and had been depressed off and on from that but she always talked about things she was going to do to get active again. She was somewhat quirky which we attributed to her age and always having been a little quirky. She had done a little hoarding (buying gifts for people then hanging on to them) and we had to sell a lot of stuff when she moved next to my brother. She also talked to strangers a lot out of the blue, but she always did that she just got worse about it. But we didn’t see any other signs. She was functional and doing things for herself up to the trip to the hospital in March. She asked after that for my sister to look into an ALF for her because she thought she might need help taking care of herself. The doctors say that AD patients get good at covering up so often you don’t see the earlier signs.
We hate her having to be in the ALF but no one in the family could take care of her 24 hours a day. We all have jobs and/or families and private nurses are out of our budget. Since her diagnosis she has gone downhill majorly fast and I think she’s just given up. On Christmas my sister brought her to her house for dinner and gifts but she was very unresponsive.
I’m sure it is even more difficult for families that take care of the AD patients in their home. I will only echo what the other posters have said, contact your local Alzheimers group, check online for the main organization and then look for your local chapter. That is how I got the information for the memory disorder clinic for her diagnosis, they sent a lot of information on AD also and they have support groups and they can help find respite care. My mother went downhill so fast that there was really no option for us but to put her into an ALF where she could get constant care.
Please take her for testing, as has been said there are some drugs that may help slow the progress so the sooner you get her diagnosed the better.
I’ll save my rant about our government and senior care and Alzheimers research for another time.
My dad was diagnosed with AD four years ago. It is very gradual in his case. He is still very functional but has to be reminded about a lot of things. He’s better at remembering things from way back than from ten minutes ago.
It tends to worsen if he’s ailing from something else.
Something which has helped a lot recently is physical therapy.
I help my mom look after him. She deals with it by keeping a daily journal on everything and trying to stay on top of the health issues, doctor visits, meds, etc. She also plays computer and handheld games, reads a lot, talks on the phone, takes him along to the store, carwash, out to eat and so forth.
Supplements and vitamins can be helpful if the person can tolerate them. B, E, and fish oils are recommended. Actually, blueberries don’t hurt either.
There are adult day care programs around, and a variety of caregivers–some private, some with agencies. They would provide respite care for the weary caregiver. It’s very important for those caregivers to get help and to look after themselves instead of being constantly drained.
Sorry if this post is rather disjointed.
In the field of dementia research, the term they use a lot is “caregiver.” I just googled “dementia caregiver” and found some resources that looked good. I bet “Alzheimer’s caregiver” would work, too. I am in a hurry (lunch break), so I don’t have time to do any links, but you might want to look at the results yourself.
Sometimes it seems everyone I know is going through this . . . My mother had a stroke three years ago and has progressive multi-infarct dementia, which in some ways mirrors Alzheimer’s. My main advice is to immediately scope out the assisted-living facilities and nursing homes in your area, as she will need them sooner or later (both parents may, in fact). It’s better to be prepared. Contact the visiting-nurse and visiting physical therapist agencies in your area; they see all of the places and can warn you against the bad ones (it’s very hard to tell just by visiting).
Your father is not going to be able to care for her indefinitely; it’s better for her and for him (and for you) if you can start thinking “assisted living” now, before it becomes an emergency.
Old age sucks. I am looking forward to dying in late middle age, and my doctor says the way I’m heading, I’ll get my wish.
My parents celebrated their 58th in September. My mom also has Alzheimer’s–I noticed something was up when they came to visit a couple years ago and she couldn’t remember where our bathroom is. She’s on medication now and is nowhere near as active as she used to be. Dad had to start looking after her garden because she tires so easily now.
Lately, Mom has taken to demanding breakfast at 7pm because she falls asleep in the afternoon and thinks it’s morning. Dad initially tried correcting this but has given up. At least she’s eating on her own. A previous medication did something to her appetite and Dad had to remind her of mealtimes.
This is a particularly good site:
This one looks great, too. It links to a 70 page booklet (in pdf format) you can download and print. Beware, the title is way down the first page, so it looks blank when you open the file.
A pre-emptive many, many thanks to everyone for sharing. I’ll be reading each post in more detail during the day.
Oh, and apologies for the typo’s in the OP. Heading should be “Alzheimer’s” and “Doper’s” should be without the apostrophe. :smack:
Thank you once again. I must admit that I’m greatly relieved that many of you have suggested “assisted living” facilities as a high priority. To be honest, my dad, brother and I had already discussed and agreed that this would be the next step, but I was hesitant to admit this here. The word “abandonment” kept popping into my head.
So, I feel a lot better that we seem to have taken the right decision.
The nursing facility is less that 300 metres away from the family home, so my dad won’t be far from my mom at all.