My 96 year old Aunt who was stable and doing well, slipped into a frightening dementia within two days. She was "picking fairies" and hallucinating, anxious and frightened, and very "speedy"...she was constantly doing things fast, including trying to walk and move in ways that would have her fall.
She received one on one care at the assisted living facility where she lived.
I took her to the hospital. They said she was "slightly dehydrated" and that her medicines had backed up. They stopped her meds, pumped her full of fluid and by the next day I had my Aunt back. She was exhausted from not having slept and being "busy" for three days and nights, but she was lucid and responsive and made sense. They started her meds again and sent her home. By mid day of the next day, the symptoms returned. Again, one on one care by the facility until I could get her to the doctor. (When I called for help, she was given an anti-psychotic). I was frantic. It was the meds, right? Please don't give her more. At the doctor's office, the doctor said she was done. Find a memory care facility, pump her full of sedatives and sign her up for hospice. I had to promise I wouldn't take her to the emergency room again as hospice had all sorts of drugs to handle any symptoms. I asked for her meds, specifically Lyrica and Tramadol to be discontinued. She had had an overdose of Lyrica once that caused the same type of hallucination she was having, and I have taken tramadol for pain, and felt "speedy", so I wanted both of those drugs stopped to see if that helped. I was told it would not make any difference because she had been on those drugs for years and what we were seeing was a sudden onset of increased dementia. The last time I had been told that, my mother's kidneys had shut down causing dementia type symptoms. I didn't believe it then, and I didn't believe it now. I pressed. I told the doctor if the drugs could be causing this condition, then stopping them would be the right thing to do, and if it made no difference, then we could start them again. He humored me. Reluctantly. Within 24 hours Aunt was back to normal. She slept for 24 hours, and I had people with her 24/7 in addition to the facility staff, and she gradually, over three weeks, came back to her normal pleasantly confused, happy self. What a scary event. Her system simply had changed in its ability to clear the meds and they built up over time. I saw the same thing happen with my mother. This is not an unknown thing, and I'm not the only smart caregiver. Please trust yourselves. I felt like the hospital people knew, but they didn't follow through. The doctor gave up (and I know he is a caring good man and doctor who has helped my Aunt a lot and showed genuine affection for her). I actually told him I thought "we" were giving up too soon. In the midst of this panic I was going through, the facility administrator told me that hospice would straighten out my Aunt's med issues. To get them in there to help. So I signed them up. I learned later they don't have anything to do with that type of thing. I had a terrible time with the hospice people. A chaplain who quizzed my Aunt until she cried because with her confusion she didn't know the answers, and the people who came who announced they were from hospice, causing my Aunt to believe she was dying and scared her to death. I know hospice is wonderful. But in this case we were referred in error, and what my Aunt needed and what hospice provides did not mesh. I hadn't realized hospice is used now to treat chronic conditions over periods of six months that can be renewed or extended for years. We had to promise not to ever take my Aunt to the hospital ER again. Medicare pays 100% for hospice to handle chronic conditions. Medicare doesn't pay much to HMOs for ER visits. It's a way to reduce costs. But we were certainly pushed that way too soon. I liked the hospice people, but realized they were not really aware of the perception that exists in certain generations of what hospice is and how you really can't change that perception in people with diminished capacity to process new information. That same week, a gentleman in the same town committed suicide after being told he was to go on hospice. I got a frantic call from his step daughter who had just talked to her mother. Her mother called because she found a suicide note, and then my friend heard the gunshot while she was talking to her mother. I know hospice people are there to help and do a world of good, but this is a difficult time in the changing perceptions of what hospice is for patients and caregivers. They've changed hospice's role from imminent death care to rather long term chronic condition management. I felt like the world wanted my Aunt to die, and I was the only one who saw it was a mistake. How do I make people hear me? How do I tell you that your words are instilling fear and hopelessness when you mean just the opposite?