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4 years and counting. Is it Alzheimers?
Posted: Monday, August 12, 2019 3:43 PM
Joined: 8/11/2019
Posts: 3


I moved across the country to Missouri four years ago, when I first noticed my mother showing symptoms of dementia. My father died of Alzheimers 20 years ago. Mom is now 88. At first I lived in a nearby town, but now I live with Mom, although in a separate guest house. 

Mom has a family doctor she trusts, but it seems to me that the doctor is in denial about Mom's condition. Her chart says only "Mild cognitive impairment." Who knows why? Possibly to protect her? I don't know if a diagnosis is important anyway. 

These are Mom's symptoms:

The first real sign was when she couldn't keep track of her calendar, even for a few minutes. She asks again and again when someone is coming, what time we're supposed to be somewhere, etc. 

She eats very little and I think forgets to eat sometimes when I'm not there. I do my best to make sure she is eating. We have dinner together every evening.  She lies a lot to cover. Her weight is 40 pounds lower than in the old days. The doctor is also really skinny so I think this might explain why she doesn't seem alarmed at this weight loss (over 5-8 years.)

Mom asks the same questions over and over, within 15 minutes sometimes. She takes her dental bridge out and has weird reasons why. She can still get dolled up to go out, and by smiling (bridge in lol) she passes as pretty normal. She takes care of her dog and her cat. She never forgets who I am, and listens and responds when I tell her long tales of my daily life just to keep both of us from dying of boredom. She gets my jokes. Again, a lot of the time she seems perfectly normal.

Her handwriting is tiny and light. (There don't seem to be any other Parkinson's symptoms as far as I can tell. No palsy.)

She sleeps A LOT, often 15 hours a day. She loves sleeping, always did. She now sleeps 12 hours at night, then naps.

Mom takes some blood pressure medicine, an anti depressant, thyroid and recently Ritalin, which seems to have perked her up a lot. (Seemed weird to me but it is working. Even seems to have improved her memory a bit.)

I think this covers it. My question is: Do I need to do anything more for her? Is a diagnosis important? Is this Alzheimers? Does it matter? 

I'll have more questions...about future care, etc. Hoping to find a support group but thought I would start here. We live way out in the country, 1.5 hours from the nearest large town.

Thank you for reading.

Posted: Monday, August 12, 2019 3:57 PM
Joined: 6/21/2019
Posts: 458

Honestly, at 88, it does sound like she has age related mild cognitive impairment, as opposed to Alzheimer's.

She's functioning pretty well for her age going by your description of her activities.

You don't mention any deterioration of her ability to communicate.

You also don't mention anything indicating she's losing the ability to walk.

No incontinence.

No tremors.

No hallucinations.

If you really think she may have dementia, you can always get a second opinion if she's willing to see another doctor.

Posted: Monday, August 12, 2019 4:17 PM
Joined: 9/3/2016
Posts: 215

The symptoms do sound familiar, and very well could be AD. However, from my experience with my mom who is now 88 and first started showing really obvious symptoms at 84/85 having the diagnosis isn't worth much. AD is relentless in moving forward, and nothing really is going to stop its progression IF that's what she has. My mom is now well into Stage 7 and on hospice. If you can find a good geriatric doctor for her my experience has been that they are more helpful than a neurologist.
Posted: Tuesday, August 13, 2019 1:46 PM
Joined: 8/11/2019
Posts: 3

Thank you. You're right, none of those extra symptoms you mention. Assuming these aren't early Alzheimers symptoms? I'll just keep on taking care of her and hope it doesn't get much worse. We're a long-lived family, so 88 isn't that old to us!
Posted: Tuesday, August 13, 2019 1:48 PM
Joined: 8/11/2019
Posts: 3

I'm probably not getting the threads right this is a thank you to the second reply. Sounds like we're in the same boat sort of. How long was it before you noticed the true AD symptoms? Is hospice related to the dementia issues, or the physical decline of normal aging? Sorry if this is too nosy. Thank you!
Posted: Tuesday, August 13, 2019 2:13 PM
Joined: 6/21/2019
Posts: 458


Here's a chart listing the seven stages of Alzheimer's for your reference.

If you're really not sure, and don't agree with your mom's family doctor, a second opinion is always an option.

Posted: Tuesday, August 13, 2019 2:49 PM
Joined: 9/3/2016
Posts: 215

Rebecca, if you were asking about my mom, once we realized something was seriously wrong she went down hill pretty quickly. But, now looking back I know she was showing symptoms much sooner than I realized. I was also taking care of my father at the time who while did not have dementia had some very serious health issues. My mom was pretty good at covering things up and hiding a lot of what was going on with her. Also my mom is blind, and while at the time she could still see shadows and outlines, she was legally blind. I blamed a lot of things that were probably the Alzheimer's symptoms on her lack of vision. In retrospect I felt badly that I did not recognize how bad off my mom was sooner, but I also give myself a bit of a pass because even if we had known from day 1, ultimately nothing would have changed or been any better. We would have just had longer to agonize over it.

The constant worrying about time, when something was supposed to happen, not remembering for 5 minutes at a time when I told her was one of the early symptoms I first noticed. Also her personality began to change drastically. Other than asking about time, my mom never really went through a period of asking the same question repeatedly over and over. She did ask about time that way though.

Posted: Tuesday, August 13, 2019 4:02 PM
Joined: 10/9/2014
Posts: 786

I've read that sometimes medication can help if it's AD, but, I have no evidence of that.  My LO had VD, later it was suspected that it might be mixed with AD.  

It sounds like you are able to meet her needs right now.  I know the repeating can get quite frustrating.  I never really figured a way to avoid that.  It does pass though.  My LO also started becoming disagreeable and having delusions about things that did not exist.  Nothing too bad, but, she was cross for a couple of months. She also began worrying about other people, pets, etc. as well as crying over her fear, of what she couldn't say. Then came very poor judgment, so that she didn't realize the need for a shower or changing clothes. Resistance to care could arise. And later, incontinence and inability to walk. 

As long as things are doable, I'd just be aware and have a backup plan.  Having your own time to get out and vital.  

Posted: Tuesday, August 13, 2019 6:20 PM
Joined: 6/16/2018
Posts: 26

I have some of the same questions about my mom. One of the most concerning thing that I have noticed is loss of executive functioning and problem solving. My mom can't handle roadblocks. if she gets a notice for on over due bill that she thinks she paid, she goes into a panics and has a melt down. She is not capable of planning ahead or anticipating consequences. For example, she has let me father who is diagnosed with dementia and has an expired drivers license drive to the grocery store. I explained he could cause a wreck and hurt himself or someone else. Then she would be held financially responsible.  This does not seem to concern her. She also leaves my dad by himself despite being told she should not. She let his medical alert expire and did not see the need to replace it.  She repeats herself a lot, does not remember much,  or know the day of the week.

And she won't let caregivers in the house to help. She will talk to me  about them coming the day before and then when they come she does not let them in. She also fires caregivers with no thought to the consequences or a plan as to what to do without .

This is very stressful to my brother and I, but she has not been diagnosed.

Where is the line between age related decline and true dementia? My mom is 89 BTW


Posted: Wednesday, August 14, 2019 8:24 AM
Joined: 9/3/2016
Posts: 215

Silverlining, my advice would be to talk with your mom's regular doctor. It does sound like something is wrong more so than just age related decline, but you and her doctor are the ones best able to determine this. Also if your mom would consider (and maybe the doctor can encourage her about that) assisted living that might be a good possibility. They could still be together in their own little apartment, but they would have 24/7 help at their fingertips.
Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2019 10:08 PM
Joined: 7/10/2017
Posts: 634


There's a reason most doctors don't give a diagnosis of Alzheimers at the MCI stage. The symptoms of MCI are common to a whole bunch of diseases and conditions, both dementia and otherwise. For example, the MCI symptoms could be caused by something as simple as a vitamin B-12 deficiency.  And many people get to the MCI stage and it never progresses to anything else.  The MCI symptoms, which could also be side effects of meds, are just too common to make a call at this stage.

MCI is consistent with stage 3 of AD. Sounds like your Mom has MCI symptoms, but not symptoms that would be consistent with stage 4 of AD, so a diagnosis of AD would be premature.  You can check with the doctor about the B-12, or buy some over the counter. A neurologist can do an MRI scan to rule out other causes, like brain tumors.

Hopefully, your Mom won't get worse and it will just be age-related MCI.  If she starts showing a lot of the symptoms of stage 4 of AD, that would be a time to revisit this with a doctor.  Keep a diary of anything you consider "out of the ordinary," and take it to show the doctor.  This is very valuable to the doctor. You see your Mom all the time, and the doctor only sees her for 15 minutes.


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