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Is it normal for someone who has Alzheimer's to be obsessed with their son?

Asked by  |  Nov 4, 2011

My mother in law has Alzheimer's. Okay, I know it is normal for them to ask over & over the same question, however is this major obsession with her son (my husband) normal? We finally have hired a caregiver this week & we have been trying her out. I am upstairs (mom thinks I am gone) & I am monitoring the situation. I spent an hour counting how many times mom asked "Are they coming" I counted 192 times in one hour. I have been the full time caregiver for 3 years. Mom has always been obsessed with son asking "Is he coming"...NOW that we are both gone it is "Are THEY coming". Is it possible she has some behaviorial disorder along with the Alzheimers? She also gets extremely mad often. ALL she cares about is that her son is in her presence. Basically if she does not get her way she will throw things, yell, etc...until he is there.
Her Dr. also agrees that this is an Obsession with her son. Any suggestions on how to get rid of this obsession? PLEASE HELP!

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Carol Bradley Bursack, Nov 5, 2011

Over the span of two decades, author, columnist, consultant and speaker Carol Bradley Bursack cared for a neighbor and six elderly family members. Her experiences inspired her to pen, "Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories," a portable support group book for caregivers.

 

You answered the question with "Mom has always been obsessed with son..."
AD is likely making this worse, as she can't remember when she saw him. She also may be afraid she'll forget him. Fear and confusion are driving factors in AD, so this isn't going to get better (though it may change). She may eventually want to see her son, only when she sees him - he's not the son she wants to see! She is looking for her son at age, say 12, because her mind will continue to go to long-term memory as her short-term memory disappears.
I'm glad you are getting help. Try to weather this with out too much anxiety. She is in transition since you've been around all of the time.
The temper issues may be AD, her personality, or both. Please ask the doctor if anxiety is causing this and if she would do better with some medication.
I know it's hard to think about her fear, especially since it sounds like she's never been easy, and you've already had three years of this. Please keep on with caregiving help no matter how she handles it. You deserve and need this break. She may eventually need assisted living or nursing home care in order to handle her needs. You can't destroy your own life because of her disease. You are taking still care of her - you are just getting help.
Good luck - it's all tough.
Carol

 
 

ladeeM

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Nov 5, 2011

As I have said many times, I HATE the disease of Alz... I primarly take care of Alz. clients, so yes it is normal for them to get obsessive, it is almost like a needle getting stuck on an old '45 record..... if it wasn't her son, it would be something else or someone else... Ruth was obsessed with what time it was, and who was going to come pick her up, she was also obsessed with getting out the doors....
Joyce was obsessed with worrying, about anything, just on and on and on, about the fact that her daughter hasn't been there, yes, she was there yesterday, but I didn't tell her that, it wouldn't have made any difference...
Now Sonny is obsessed with picking up every stick he finds in the yard, the neighbors yard, on the street, you get the picture, and also with drying his hands... if I didn't take the towel away from him he would make his skin raw....
Unfortutenly the meds they give them are for normal brains, not alz, so finding the right combo sometimes is a crap shoot.... they either have such bad reactions that they get worse, or they are overmedicated.....
was very happy to see you are taking her to a new Dr... hope you find some answers and yes, you may need something yourself until she settles down... nothing wrong with that either..... somewhere, somehow , we have to take care of ourself too... Prayers for a good outcome with the new Dr... let us know how it goes....

 
 

Capability

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Nov 8, 2011

This sounds so frustrating and exhausting for you. I would suggest attending a Caregiver or Alzheimer's support group to meet other people who are experiencing similar situations.

I think it's wonderful that you've hired help- and a professionally trained caregiver should be able to help manage this behavior. It might be best if you and your husband weren't there when the caregiver is- give yourself some much deserved respite.

When you MIL asks, the caregiver could answer 'yes, he's coming' every time she asks, and then perhaps get out some old family photos and reminisce with her- perhaps this will help.
Good luck and take care.

 
 

You can also answer "You really want to see him!" and "You really love him don't you!" and "You miss him when he's not here!" and such things that validate her feelings and give you a break from the repetitive round of question-answer-question-answer. It might also shift her (briefly!).

 
 

Thank you. This is such a complicated disease it is so hard for our normal brains to comprehend. The current Dr. says they have a "Co-dependent" relationship. I think that is a bunch of bull. He just loves his mom & will do anything to make sure she is taking care of & happy. (Italian/German Family) I just wasnt sure if this obsession is because of their closesness & we have been the only caregivers for three years & she is just used to us.

What do you suggest for me & the new caregiver to do when she is asking LITERALLY every 15 seconds is he coming back...etc...I tried he will be back in 4 days & now she repeats "He will be back in 4 days??" Should we answer everytime, nod our head, not answer everytime, etc...? It really is more taxing on us caregivers than them. She has no idea how many times she is asking but I still want to handle it properly so I dont have a heartattack. I feel I have exhausted every option when it comes to helping her divert to other things & not think about him. I have tried: Redirecting, activities, goin to the mall, puzzles, walks, games, etc...The only thing she will do with me is go the store/mall. The entire time she still asks "Is He Coming" but at least we are out of the house getting exercise. All the other stuff she refuses. She gets frustrated. I try to walk her through stuff like folding towels, cleaning windows, games, etc...but she will not sit for more than 30 seconds. She is extrememly energetic (can kick her leg to her face). 77 years old.

Another question I have is:
I know AD is a memory disease but I get confused on how much she understands. I feel like she manipulates situations sometimes.
Pushing my buttons like a little kid.
Example: Caregiver was here with me. Mom started hitting us and throwing things. Was upset (wanted her son). When my husband heard this (he was upstairs-mom did not know he was here) he came running down to tell mom "You can't hit, that's not nice". Caregiver observed that all mom cared about was that her son was standing in front of her & she got her way. Caregiver says that mom understands that if she acts up her son will come running, so in the end she "gets her way". Hope I am making sense.

Thanks again for all this wonderful advice & support.

 
 

ShadowChild1

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Nov 8, 2011

I like the idea from Capability about photographs. Could you create an album and have her tell the caregiver about each picture until her son is present? I agree that you need to talk to your doctor about your health. You have to be worn out physically and mentally, and doctors understand how important it is for you to have help. Take care and write to us.

 
 

yellowfeever

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Nov 8, 2011

My mother had a obsession/dependency issue. First it was my father(prior to onset of Dementia) once he passed away she moved on to be obsessed with my brother. She created this reality that my brother would take dads place. In the midist of this she started with the Dementia. My brother of course used this to his advantage unfortunately. Once I came into the picture to take care of mom. She shifted her obsession to me. I couldn't even go to the bathroom without her following me. Constantly, yelling through the house for me. Just to make sure I was still here. I was with this woman 24/7 but still she insisted that I was up her rear end all the time. My husband got the worst of it though. She viewed him as my father. My husband was put into some uncomfortable situations. My husband and my father are closely built alike. So she mistaken him all the time for my dad. I don't mean to laugh but picture a 300lb man running and hiding from a 90lb something woman.

Talking to mom about her dependency on us was like talking to the wall. She was in her own mindset. I truly think that she was afraid of more loss in her life. My father died suddenly in his sleep beside her. She was traumatized. So she clung to my brother who lived here at the time. Then my brother up and walked out of her life. Then there was just me left(I have a sister who has been estranged from mom for a long time). Even though she was suffering from dementia, she clung to me and my husband. Perhaps, in fear that we would leave her too. Its hard to say what is going on in someones mind with Dementia.

Manipulation was something mom was so good at. I questioned whether she had Dementia or not. At times, she was quite sly and smart. She would play me and my husband against each other. But no matter how much she would push our buttons we had to learn to remind ourselves that yes she might be an adult but she was acting like a child. And the more we left her "play" us the more she would do it for attention. Mom would do things and I wouldn't realize that she was manipulating me till after the fact. Thats how good she was!!

For me and husband, moms obsession gradually faded as her disease progressed. At this point, we are lucky she if calls us by name or even knows us.

So my suggestion for you is just keep reasuring her that her son will be coming. Even if it means you or the caregiver has to say "yes" over and over again. Remember her brain has went haywire. And she might not even realize that she is repeating herself. Changing the subject might be rude if it was you or I, but for her like my mom they can easily be rerouted in a different direction with conversation and not realize there question went unanswered. As far as manipulation, set your boundries. When she pushes your buttons, walk out of room, take a breathe and start over. I found out that if I walked away for a few minutes and came back alot of times moms "fits" had passed. Just like I gave one of my kids a "time out". So when your MIL acts out yells, throws things etc, don't acknowledge her, walk away. Acknowledgment just feeds "fits".

You might not be able to fix this overnight. But I have learned with my mother its all trial and error. If one thing doesn't work today try something else tomorrow and she won't notice the difference.
Good luck and hope you find some peace.

 
 

PamelaSue

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Nov 8, 2011

OMG, I believe I will opt for suicide if a doctor ever tells me I have Alzheimer's. I just could not do this to my children and grandchildren.

 
 

exhausted1

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Nov 8, 2011

I'm so sorry. It is sooooo sad to see this. My mother's AD is getting worse, she recently had difficulty recognizing a relative. We went through this nightmare with my mother in law several years ago. She thought her son, my husband, was her brother, then later, she recognized that we were her visitors, but, I don't believe she knew who we were in relation to her. I don't know how I will handle my Mom not recognizing me.
Hugs to all~

 
 

coleen

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Nov 9, 2012

My husband has early onset dementia (Alzheimers) and is completely obsessed with our son-in-law. This is apparently perfectly normal and no matter how upsetting or annoying this is to other family members we must be patient and sympathetic. I answer my husband every time he asks about our son-in-law and try to be reassuring. It doesn't help, of course, but I answer out of respect. The only thing that gives me patience to deal with this non-stop questioning is to tell myself that if I was the one with the disease, I know my husband would have been patient and loving towards me. I know only too well how difficult this all is so I wish you strength and heaps of patience.

 

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