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Tracing symptoms of dementia back in time
My mother's symptoms of dementia seemed to erupt suddenly when she was removed from her familiar environment after a traumatic fall, surgery and recovery.
However, I am tracing back some symptoms that I discounted as symptoms of the multiple sclerosis she has lived with for decades.
A few months ago, she told me she was unable to read fiction or non-fiction any more.
This has happened before, and she was later able to resume reading, which is a passion.
This time, she didn't seem much bothered by the inability to read.
She was much more impulsive and demanding over the past year. She has been a demanding person all her life, but not impulsive.
She would phone me and tell me she was hungry.
Because this usually happened when her aide had been ill or unable to get groceries immediately, I chalked it up to just not having enough food in the house and I ordered groceries and take out for her. (I lived some distance away).
However, I am thinking this was a symptom of dementia, though she was still able to fix herself simple meals, at least whenever I visited--perhaps a performance for me.
She didn't get her pet dog to the vet when necessary. Since I was happy she wasn't driving, I arranged for mobile vet care, but she wouldn't always admit when her dog needed help.
Though the rest of her house is in its usual good, clean order, paperwork was in piles and some important bills were unpaid.
She has always been very private about her finances (and her life, for that matter). I made only surface inquires when I saw the occasional bill lying on the table that appeared to need to be attended to.
I think dealing with the symptoms of MS over the years blunted my level of alertness to changes.
However, I am deeply saddened by my ignorance and how I missed other clues that she needed help quite a while ago.
I too can go back in time, remembering things or words my DH did or said which make me wonder (realize), his symptoms started showing up years before anyone would have thought.
He was always a demanding, grumpy sort who despised authority and in all honesty, did things that made me wonder.
I am of the opinion symptoms were overlooked or dismissed due to his personality and character. Some of them are hyper magnified due to the numerous illnesses which add to the roller coaster effect of MSA, dementia, Alz, diabetes and other issues.
We all miss the signs.
One is being more prone to arguing... about anything. My mom was never an argumentative person, but suddenly started to fight with her sister. None of us could figure it out. But we chalked it up to mom suddenly being a widow and her sister not putting her first in her life... stuff like that. But mom would all out lie about stuff in her arguments. It was bizarre. Once or twice I worried mom would punch her sister and I was so upset by the behavior that I did not know what to do.
Another was hoarding. Easy enough to dismiss. She forgets that she has bought beets already so she buys another... etc. Until the cupboards are full of beets.... Not to mention the Dove bars in the freezer and the vegetable drawers full of Halloween candy.
The bill piles were another. Every flat surface had piles of paper on it. Kitchen counter, coffee table, bedside table, dresser.... But she still knew where things were in the piles. She had a 'system'. But then screaming at the credit card company when she was being charged for a late fee.... and canceling the card.
Then there were the stains on her shirts. The excuse we made was that she could no longer see the stains in her mirror. But the reality was that she was wearing the same shirt over and over and because she could not 'choose' anymore. She was even wearing shoes with holes in them while a brand new pair was sitting right there in her closet.
Lots more signs... we see what we want to see and we want to keep them from this terrible disease so don't feel guilty. We were always trying to keep them 'whole', both for themselves and for ourselves.
And yes, symptoms get exacerbated under duress. When mom's sister passed away she was in terrible shape for awhile. Though she improved a bit, she never was able to get back to a baseline from before that death.
Take the package of guilt that you feel and place it in a safe place and stop carrying it around. It need not weigh you down anymore. Hugs.
The backward glances that we all do, our Monday Morning Quarterbacking, are extremely upsetting. It's normal to think back and spot what now seem like glaring indicators; but remember, they were isolated flags that occurred amid this busy thing called life.
In general, even when the garbage has hit the fan and we realize there is something terribly wrong, remember it takes us quite a while, with a strategy and sometimes even more decline before we can help our LO.
Recognizing it any earlier does not mean we would have been able to help them any earlier. And it sure wouldn't have changed the diagnosis.
Best to think back and recognize the early symptoms, and stash them. "What ifs" only paralyze us with fruitless, unecessary negative feelings, and are a complete waste of time and energy that we need for NOW.
It's entirely normal to feel pain in recognizing them, but process it and let it go. It is of now matter to the current situation.
Good advice from all, many thanks!
I guess this is part of my processing, since the dementia cannot have come from nowhere suddenly.
I think many of us have been or are thinking about this. I noticed strange behaviors in my mother years ago but didn't associate it with VD. It wasn't until she broke her hip and went through numerous surgeries and rehab stints that it became more obvious and made sense.
Behavior issues included:
- her writing off friends that she had for years because they wouldn't do she wanted of them
- throwing bagged garbage off the back porch and then complaining the neighbor's dog was getting into it.
- the inability to understand what medications she was on and what they were for
- the inability to understand on how many Tylenol to take even though my sister and I told her repeatedly the appropriate dose and time to take it.
- forgetting to eat
- forgetting to pay bills and taxes
- forgetting to show up for personal engagements or appointments
- the inability to separate professional relationships from personal relationships
- the development of crushes on any man who showed any kindness towards her
I can cite numerous other examples but it won't do any good at this point as we know that she has VD and that we have focus on her current state as well as prepare for what is coming.
Stay strong and ensure that you take care of yourself. Sharing is caring.