When my mother talks on the phone, she is far less confused and has better memory than normal. Why?

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Normally, confused and very forgetful, when on the phone my mom seems far less confused and to know what is going on. This is frustrating as my siblings seldom see the side of her that I do...with very little short term memory and signs of dementia.

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It's most likely adrenaline. One of the biggest frustrations of hands-on caregivers is to get visitors and others (even on the phone) who seldom see the elder - even doctors - to "get it." The elder gets so excited when talking with someone they haven't seen for awhile that they seem quite normal. Then, when it's over, they crash and it's your problem.

My mother covered her dementia like a wizard. People who talked to her occasionally on the phone or people who visited every few weeks wondered why we said she had dementia. I suffered greatly from the "bad daughter syndrome." It's humiliating and infuriating to find that your efforts to care for your mother in the best way possible are viewed as suspect by others. If they'd just stick around awhile, they would see what you see.

I'm sorry you have to deal with this, but unfortunately, it's not unusual.
Take care,
Carol
I have the same experience with my mother. It really frustates me. It seems like when I explain some of the behaviors mom is diplaying, they think I'm nuts because they dont get that over the phone. They think she sounds great and I'm blowing the situation out of proportion. I have taken care of mom for 2 1/2 yrs thus far and they haven't a damn bit... "I KNOW DEMENTIA as I 'm sure you do...I know exactally where you are coming from.
I have the same thing happen with my mother. She suffered a stroke which impaired her speech. She has difficulty speaking with my husband and myself, yet when she talks to someone on the phone she has no difficulty. I am sure that they think we have the problem and not my mother. To bad none of them ever see her struggling to get her words our with us.
Thanks for your comments...this has been a major source of frustration for me. And you are right, even the doctors don't really "see" it...one nurse said to me "she seems quite happy"...this is so far from the truth that I just looked at her bewildered and said, "No, not really..." Mom hides the dementia and depression from others very well. Even when visiting my sister for several hours, she holds it together quite well, except for repeating a few questions. Minor, compared to her behavior at home. I don't think anyone can appreciate how difficult it can be to be the caregiver for someone with dementia until they have done it for a fair amount of time. I have been caring for my mom now for over 1 year. I am feeling burned out but need to hold it together for mom...it's good to talk to others who truly "Understand"!
I also have the same issue. I take my mom to my sister's for the weekend and all I hear is that she is doing great and she doesn't act that way here! Well, live in my house with her and then maybe you will see. As for the doctors, I agree it seem's good. I was just there yesterday and he said well she looks good, yeah, I gave her a shower, dressed her and she is walking fine, but as the visit went on, OUT it came, he finally GOT it. I swear I heard music playing when he got it....
People who don't walk in our shoes think we are the ones, but we all know that is not the case, we have to stay focused and be the bad guy if need be, but we all know what is right.... All of use have earned wings in some way or another. United We Stand...... And, please don't foget to laugh, it is what keep's me sane most of the time..... :~)
This happens to me as well. My mama is so lucid and bright at the doctor's and even on the phone, but she can't keep it going for any length. I suspect the adrenaline upsurge might be part of it. It might also be responsible for the fact that she eats better when we go out for lunch than at home.

Is there any way to use this to keep her mental acuity closer to what it used to be?
This is very interesting because I was starting to think my M-I-L was faking her memory lapses. She can no longer remember how to write out a check for a bill and when she trys to help out by putting dishes away I find them everywhere but where they belong.

Oddly, when she talks about things in her past or when she gets a phone call from a friend she hasn't talked to in a while she can remember things from when she was 6 years old.

I've noticed on the occassions when she gets out of the house and participates in life her memory seems to improve. The problem is she always has an excuse why she doesn't want to go anywhere. She's only 78 and I think to young to just give up. I'm wondering if I should point out the memory improvement to her after she's been socially engaged. I don't want to hurt her feelings.
My mother is also 78 and like yours, has to be urged to participate in life. I have found that she does enjoy going to the local Senior day care for 2 mornings a week and you are right, her memory is much better when she is engaged in something interesting. She has no problems recounting what she did at the center. But recently she just wants to nap on the couch all afternoon and uses going out in the morning as an excuse to be on the couch for the rest of the afternoon. It is partly depression but now she is on medication for that...hopefully, it will help. I try not to expect too much in the way of memory (short-term memory that is) but it definitely comes and goes. As I said, she is most clear when she is on the phone, esp. when talking to someone she hasn't seen in quite a while, like an old friend or one of her children who live farther away. It is tough to be patient when it sometimes seems within her control, but I know that is is not.
Carmarlein,
I think you have hit on an aspect of Alzheimer's disease that needs much more investigation. My mom was diagnosed in 1996 by a doctor who had a lot of elderly patients. He was clever enough to engage my mom in a normal conversation in which she held her own then he gradually slid in questions like "Do you think Jimmy Carter is going to get a second term?" and "Does your son graduate college in June? (I was 50 yrs old at that time) Of course mom gave the "expected" answers without any sign of confusion or contradiction :-) After a short discourse, the doctor asked my mom to wait in the waiting room because my father had to sign some paperwork for the Medicare billing. Then he broke the news to my dad and told him not to confront mom with the bad news but prepare himself to deal with it first. He also prescribed a new drug that slowed the progression of the disease so mom was blessed to have a gradual decent rather than crash and burn like many who-due to denial-are not brought in for evaluation til it is too late.
But it isn't just Alzheimer's. The neurologist even said it wasn't Alzheimer's that she has. With all this preoccupation with Alzheimer's folks tend to forget there are other forms of dementia to be dealt with.

Patricia

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