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Dementia in the 21st C - disturbing text /sms messages
Posted: Friday, May 10, 2019 7:02 AM
Joined: 4/8/2019
Posts: 13

My MIL (age 79) has been diagnosed with Alz. She often calls or sends text messages (she can still type very well!) to my DH late at night begging for help saying FIL wants to kill her (not true, although I'm sure he sometimes speaks harshly to her), she wants to kill herself, she wants to leave right now to a hotel or wants to buy / rent her own place to live tomorrow (she has lost all concept of money so that would not work!), she wants my DH to come there right now (in the middle of the night when he lives 3.5 hrs away and works full time). These messages are obviously wearing on my DH a lot.

Any ideas or suggestions? Take the phone away? Block her number? Or is it good for her to have this 'outlet'  to share her fears (she also sends the same kind of messages to her elderly relatives which obviously then worries them a lot) 

Is this 'just a phase' and if so how long might it last? (it's been going on at least 6 months already, getting more frequent)

We are off to visit her + FIL right now for the weekend... Wish us luck! 
(will reply to any replies when back home)

Rescue mom
Posted: Friday, May 10, 2019 7:51 AM
Joined: 10/12/2018
Posts: 810

Child controls and blocks.

I understand what you said about providing an outlet, but there are other outlets and too many potential dangers here, besides worrying others needlessly. You must be exhausted of this.

If she’s doing this, falling for phone scams, fake “Medicare” and “social security” are real possibilities. What if she repreatedly calls for ambulance or cops with no need? They can start charging, or less readily responsive. What if she starts buying a lot of unneeded objects, or stocks, or timeshares?

There have been many threads and discussions here about this same situation, which almost always leads to serious problems. Using controls and blocks on the phone is quite common. She may also need a different phone, or fewer phones. But it sounds like controls and blocks are needed.

How long this may last is unpredictable. Sometimes it goes on for a year. It’s different with everybody.

Posted: Friday, May 10, 2019 9:10 AM
Joined: 5/16/2017
Posts: 392

IMO the solution is different for every PWD.    The simplest fixes worked the best for me.

Your H should turn off his phone at night.   Other people would have the sense to try your # if there is a true emergency.    

If she is disturbing many people, I would probably remove the battery from her phone + keep saying you are waiting for an appointment with Verizon or whatever to have it fixed.   Eventually she will not be able to use the phone, so these phases stop.

BTW, if she has numbers preprogrammed where she can just phone someone by pressing one button, those should be disabled at the very least.  

Posted: Friday, May 10, 2019 10:17 AM
Joined: 9/21/2017
Posts: 734

Check with her doctor about sleep aids to get her off the phone at night. Does she drink also?

And yes, restrict when you'll accept calls - block her at 9 every night, your  health matters.

This isn't an outlet like when a newly divorced gf needs to vent and then gets over it, this is sadly, a diseased mind just babbling . If you were to do anything she says she wants, she wouldn't remember it or say she still wants it the next day.

See if you can check her phone log while visiting, there are so many scams... she's prime to fall for them -- the long distant number single ring is the current one.

 And blocking the elderly relatives numbers would be a kindness to them, tell them you'll give updates but geez who wants to hear one of them fell at night going back to bed upset after one of her calls.


Good luck.

Posted: Friday, May 10, 2019 10:42 AM
Joined: 4/1/2014
Posts: 4821

You got advice but the real issue here is her dementia-that is her root cause -and it is causing these types of behaviors. There may be drugs she can tolerate to help her, ex: antidepressants, mood stablizers, sleeping pills. If she hasn't-she should be seen by a neurologist with a lot of Alz experience and get a work up done. If she is on something now-maybe they are not working and so they need to be adjusted.

 Whenever my mother had a behavior crop up (and they did and they change often-sometimes getting better, other times worse) I always looked at her holistically -was she tired? Bored? Afraid? Confused? Hungry? Depressed? In pain? Too much stimulation? Anxious? And then I would work to get the underlying issue resolved. 

 I know you live too far away to implement any fixes, so her husband needs to educate himself for his wife's and his own sake and happiness. Please ask him to join us here.

King Boo
Posted: Monday, May 13, 2019 7:32 AM
Joined: 1/9/2012
Posts: 3013

Don't much around with her GP on this one.  Find an MD Geriatric Psychiatrist who works with dementia patients - they know this very important class of medication very well, and can appropriately prescribe the correct dosage, and combination of medications to help with this behavior - which in turn makes caregiving a lot easier

A thread of suicide is always to be taken seriously - so before you call block so hubby can function, get her stable.  

There is also an obsessive/fixation component to the disease that can be helped with medication.

Posted: Monday, May 13, 2019 8:16 AM
Joined: 12/15/2011
Posts: 3908

It sounds like MIL is living with FIL who is not controlling what MIL is doing.  In a situation like this, I would advise placement of MIL or at least getting caregivers in that house overnight.  Since FIL is allowing MIL to do this, who knows what else is going on in that house.  But clearly FIL cannot supervise her.  Time for your husband to step in and correct this situation.
Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2019 12:57 AM
Joined: 4/8/2019
Posts: 13

Thanks all for your replies.  Lots of good advice here and things to think about. Sorry for my slow reply.

When we visited MIL this past weekend she seemed quite content. We went to their holiday home and I sat and talked with her there ( = answering the same few questions she always asks me, listening to her same few stories. I don't mind doing that). Next day she didn't remember she had been there so it shows the stage she's at with her memory: seems she cannot 'store' / recall new experiences.

FIL refusing to engage with medical professionals on her behalf to help get her meds sorted for her anxiety, paranoia so DH and I at a bit of loss what to do (we don't have PoA though DH has brought up the subject to FIL).

We are visiting them again in 2 weeks and I will ask DH to talk to FIL about MIL's phone. Problem is FIL has (and needs) a phone so if we take MIL's phone she'll probably just steal, try to use and then and hide FIL's (she has taken his phone and hidden it many times before). They don't have a landline. 

I agree FIL is not coping that well caring for MIL (he has Parkinson's so has his own illness to deal with) but he is so resistant to any kind of change or help we don't know what to do. They struggle on day to day but MIL needs someone to give her positive attention and 'talk with' her (she likes that and it keeps her calm) which I think FIL is too won out and fed up to do. He just ignores or snaps at her. 

Posted: Thursday, May 23, 2019 4:03 PM
Joined: 5/23/2019
Posts: 99

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