toofaraway Asked August 2009

My 72-year-old mother has dementia and has made a sudden turn for the worst and we don’t know what to do with her anymore. How do we tell my mother that she needs to see the doctor?


My 72 year old mother has dementia. Until very recently, with help from my sister, she has functioned quite well in her own home, but it seems like overnight, she has changed. She is angry and paranoid. She accuses my sister of stealing things. She isn't eating properly and she really isn't keeping up with the hygeine. When we talk to her about it she gets angry and says she is just as healthy as she was when she was 40, except she forgets a bit - but that is normal. It's not normal.
I live over 1000 miles away and my poor sister is at her wits end. There is no way that mom is going to accept a move to assisted living. Anys suggestions?

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EXPERT Carol Bradley Bursack Sep 2009
If your sister has trouble getting her to a doctor for the issues you mentioned, she could try getting her there for something else, like her blood pressure or something she'll accept.

Then, she or you could write the doctor ahead of time and let the doctor know what is going on. Perhaps with help from a medical person you and your sister can get her into assisted living.

Nearly all elders fight AL, but when the center is good, a huge percentage love it once the adjustment is made. Depression and loneliness can make elders paranoid and delusional. Having people around can make a lot of difference in this case.

I hope your sister can get some medical support. Also, maybe your mother has a good friend who sees the changes. Sometimes people will listen to someone outside of the family rather than their adult children.

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t Sep 2009
Well first of all you sound like you're being a great support to your sister in this. Good for you. In the short term, I'd make sure she knows that the phone's always there for her - dealing with this kind of behaviour is easier when you have someone to talk to, daily, if possible.

Secondly, it's a question of a family conference , I think, if you can make it to your mum's. If you & your sister sit down with her and explain the situation, and how much it is affecting everyone, it might help. Since she won't accept assisted living, try out other ideas with her - at the very least a home help once a day if possible, who can prepare and give lunch, do some cleaning, and and help her bath. That way she gets one good meal and her normal standards back.

Your mum needs to see that it is no good leaning on your sister like this, as eventually your sister will break, and then what? Joining a support group might help too. Obviously she is insisting that she is independent, which is great (my father just gave up), so the idea would be to keep her independence for as long as possible while maintaining her normal quality of life. And to take the strain off your sister!

best of luck!
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It is hard to reason with an unreasonable person. I know, because I am "the sister" in our situation as well. My mom is accusing me of all types of things, in writing to authorities. She will not allow professionals to have us both in the room at the same time so we can confront her untruths. She has aligned many allies against me, who support her with pity, and look at me accusingly. So I understand how your sister feels.

Most people don't like the idea of Assisted Living Facilities (ALF), but many need them. It's not all about your mom desires here, but also about the health of your sister, which needs consideration, as well. Has your mother had a Neurological evaluation, or a Geriatric Assessment? That is one tool to help direct your sister. They can evaluate your mom's present condition, and possibly offer medications to help with her negative ideation, and restore some semblance of peace in a runaway situation. While your mom's symptoms aren't normal, they are typical. Sounds like she and your sister need help for your mom. There's no magic answers, but some alternatives. I think I would ask mom's Physician for his/her input and direction, and possible referrals.
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toofaraway Sep 2009
Thanks everyone. Your comments have reinforced what we have decided to do. My sister has made an appointment to talk to Mom's doctor, and I have been looking into Senior day programs and the daily visit program. I'm making the trip out there this month and we will visit Assisted Living facilities and talk to the doctor about getting an official assessment.

The suggestion that we take a different approach with mom - explaining the impact that this is having on my sister, is a good one. Thanks.
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