Confusion, uncertainty.

Started by

I'm helping care for my fiance's 95yo mother. She is often confused, or as she puts it, "all turned around, all mixed up." She becomes completely dependent on her daughter as soon as she walks in the door. Doesn't know whether or not she should go to the bathroom, doesn't know how to take off her clothes, etc. Constantly apologetic and crying and asks permission for everything. Her doctor won't return our calls and if we take her in to see the doc she considers it a threat. If she does go in, she's the brightest bulb on the string, nothing wrong with her, no sirree.

Last night she had put adhesive on her dentures and then, holding the dentures asked, "So, do I put these in my mouth?"

We are at our wit's end.


Sounds like your fiance's mother has memory issues. Read the articles on the following link to see if you see "Mom" in any of those articles. and scroll down to the articles.
I agree with freqflyer. I also suggest seeing if you can get her a different doctor, preferably a geriatrician. Someone who would be more receptive to your input and more responsive to your questions. I have gone to many different doctors with my mother and virtually all of them seemed to welcome a family member's presence and see the necessity of it to make sure the symptoms are reported accurately and the instructions understood and followed. You need and deserve that at this point with your fiancé's mom.
Reading through the articles now. One thing I need to add is that she is very hard of hearing. When she returns from the audiologist, she can hear for about a day, then complains that she can't hear again. She constantly "loses" her daughter and has to find her immediately but is apologetic of any disruption if I have to go find her and insists that I need not.
First, get a different doctor - lose the unsympathetic one.

Second, what does the audiologist do that affects her hearing for only a day? Does she wear hearing aids? Sometimes just the simple matter of cleaning the ear wax can help, although if she does have a hearing deficit it's a more complicated and expensive issue as hearing aids are astronomically priced.

Sounds like she's somewhat cognizant of her memory limitations and embarrassed about them. Poor lady - I'd get her a nice compassionate doctor who's more sympathetic. But it should be the family who call, not the GF or fiancé, unless you have HIPAA authorization.
She does wear a hearing aid and has hearing in only one ear. The audiologist cleans out her ear and says she has very tiny passages and gets skin flaps that block the canal. Her daughter would have to set up the new doc but she has so little time to do that. She works full time and when she's home Mom smothers her with "don't leave me."
redthumb, exact same issue with my Mom's hearing, skin flaps that block the canal. Yet when at the audiologist, the doctor puts in the hearing aid and lo and behold Mom can hear sooo much better. But 2 or 3 days later, Mom can't hear squat. I really believe that my Mom is afraid to push the ear piece too far into the ear canal. And/or she's not cleaning off the ear piece as one tiny flake can block the the ear piece.
freqflyer. My fiance says this sounds very familiar.
It also sounds like there may be some depression at play. The don't do anything on my behalf mentioned in your second post and the help me-help me and crying mentioned in the first post.

My MIL has excessive production of ear wax and hearing loss that hearing aids can't fix, so we deal with that issue everyday. Constantly repeating ourselves louder and louder. Add in the confusion of the dementia and we don't know whether she can't hear us or just can't make sense of what we're saying.

Caregiving is a 24/7 job. It's tough keeping them at home. I couldn't do it and work too, but we don't have outside help at the present time. I have had aides when I've needed them to relieve me, but not on any kind of regular basis. With the type of dementia mom has, she can do things for herself if she's left alone for a few minutes to do them. But the instant she sees me or DH, she gets an extreme case of helplessness. We are torn between forcing her to do things that are difficult for her, and just doing it for her and keeping her anxiety level down. There is no pride in a job well done, like if she was a child. There is just the advantage of keeping her fingers as limber as possible for as long as possible. The more she does for herself, the better, right?

Also, she will say that there's nothing wrong with her, to anyone who asks. She's not hard of hearing, we mumble. She doesn't really need the walker, we just make her use it. She can walk as far as we can, she just doesn't want to, can't we use the wheelchair? Funny thing, she's ok with the wheelchair, but canes and walkers are for old people and she resists using them.

Caregiving isn't for everyone. Some people are hands on and others do better being a visitor. Mothers and daughters especially can have a history that interferes with the compassion and patience that is so important. Dementia is a disease that never gets better, only worse. There are many varieties and no one's experience is exactly the same as anyone else's. The only way at this time to positively prove Alzheimer's Disease or many other dementias, is with a brain autopsy. So they guess, give tests, try medicines. Something might work, or it might not, or it might work but with horrible side effects. So you just keep trying. Tell your girlfriend/fiancee if she has any questions, to post here too, and we'll try to help out. At the very least, we pick each other up when down.
txcamper: Your story sounds awfully familiar. Minor differences, MIL relies on her walker very heavily and can hardly get up out of her recliner even with the lift. Daughter is trying to work some from home, tying into the univ. system. But, she has a side job. She teaches riding lessons and has several students. The worst day is Friday when she goes from work directly to the barn. Mom really makes her pay for that when she gets home and she cries and moans until she falls asleep around midnight and no-one gets dinner. I try to help when I can but I'm 500 miles from home and I can't stay here full-time. I'll eventually be moving here as we are getting married next month but the move will come much later.

Another factor is the second daughter who lives in Canada, 30 hrs. drive away. She visits about twice a year and will relieve us for a brief honeymoon. When she is here she dotes on mom and everything is lovey-lovey kissy-kissy and then she leaves. When she left last week Mom went through 16 nitro during the three-day span of the drive home and once the daughter was home, no more nitro needed.
She is extremely afraid that her daughters are going to die on the road and she will be left all alone. Last week during the prison break in NY her daughter was travelling through NY and mom was worried that she would be taken prisoner.

My fiance may eventually be able to join in to this discussion, but she works from the time she walks in the door until she falls into bed and doesn't see when she would have time for it.
I thought she would be able to read some of the comments here, but the very second she focused on the screen her mother called her away. Maybe someday.

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

Please enter your Comment

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support