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Ninety-two year old Dad started rubbing a spot on his head. Took him to Dr and he had an infected ingrown hair on his scalp. Dr. prescribed medication and told Dad not to touch the spot. Now, he has a large spot on his scalp that is balding because he is constantly rubbing his head. When we tell him to stop, he’ll lie and say he isn’t rubbing his scalp. He tells us that his head is wet or feels sticky like honey because the "marbles or balls or grooves???” are “releasing.” Told me he has to open the grooves so they can crust over. He has also taken to rubbing his hands until they bleed. He had been on an antidepressant which the Dr. had us carefully cut back to see if his behavior changed. No change. He seems to be mentally ok except for this behavior and he is talking about WWIl a lot. He was in that war but rarely discussed it until lately and now tells anyone about the war. Anyone out there with a similar issue??

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MIL incessantly picked at her face until it was raw and permanently scarred. NH staff, family, and friends would try to redirect the behavior all to no avail. Finally, her doctor prescribed a low dose of Lorazapam and it has helped. Good luck and hang in there!
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He may not be "mentally ok." Picking at the scalp is a pattern that has to be broken. I knew one lady who had a hair pulling tic, almost making her bald. The rubbing of hands is also a pattern. Perhaps gloves could help.
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My 93 year old mom who has Alzheimer’s went through the same behavior after her “boyfriend” in the retirement home passed away suddenly. Although she had developed other fidgeting behaviors such as rubbing her collarbone, playing with her fingers, this was obsessive. She also rubbed a bald spot on her head which bled at times and then scabbed over. Nothing we said helped her to stop. Although at the time I didn’t really connect the behavior to her grieving, I now do believe that her inability to express her sadness exacerbated the problem. She had been so happy just to sit with him and hold hands. There was a huge emptiness in her life. I just wonder if your father’s war memories are coming to the forefront and causing him great stress. Sometimes the long ago memories become vivid as the short term memory fails. Also, he may be anxious and confused about something else and is unaware that he is even rubbing his head. I even took a photo of the back of Mothers head to show her what she was doing, but she forgot about that within a few minutes. It’s very difficult to watch this type of behavior. Our memory care specialist has just raised Mother’s dose of antidepressant to see if it helps the fidgeting. (Sertraline, still not a large dose) She has stopped the excessive rubbing of her head as she has adjusted to the loss of her special friend. The other fidgeting remains, especially when she is around people who stress her out. Good luck with this, it’s so difficult to watch and not be able to stop it!
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Kate06 Jan 21, 2019
LOL--I swear I could have written this--it's so similar to my experience! MIL is on Sertaline as well. I too took a photo of her face to show her the damage she was doing. Lorazepam has helped her a bit...I might need some too as it is unbearable to watch her pick, pick, pick :-)
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If he's been evaluated by a doctor and there is no medical cause for this behavior, you may want to offer him things to do with his hands. Perhaps a hobby like drawing or painting, writing, some thick yarn for learning all the different types of knots, puzzles, etc. Nervous energy can often be controlled by keeping busy with something enjoyable. 'Just a suggestion...

I wish you and your father the very best!
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Yes, veterans often will talk about the past as they get closer to the end. This doesn't mean your father is dying! It just means he is now ready to discuss what happened in the war.

RE: rubbing, marbles/balls/grooves releasing - this too is a part of the end hallucinations. My DH thought bugs were coming out of his skin but he assured me he killed them as they came out. The HomeHealth Nurse was there one day when he was relating it and she shook her head and told me not to be concerned. Normal.

I used Benedryl to stop DH's itching but then had to stop the Benedryl because it caused hallucinations/extremely vivid dreams.

I hope this helps to alleviate some of your fears. BTW, my DH reached 96yrs 8mos.
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So Dad has no dementia, correct? I'd be thinking of a psych consult asap before he creates some serious damage. It sounds like rubbing may be his way of dealing with pain. It sounds like some OCD behavior; that probably compounded by thinning skin. From what I've heard those of the Greatest Generation, of which my dad is one, don't want to talk much about the war no matter how impacted and traumatized they may have been. In my work in all these many years there was one woman who had excessive head itching. In the beginning the thought was it may be a hair/shampoo type product. She ultimately went into a nursing home and we lost touch so I don't know what the outcome or diagnosis, if any, was. But based on your dad's description of what he has happening related to this, there might be some cognitive issues going on. Don't overlook the wackiness potential of a UTI either...that's an easy fix if it is. Also wonder if a dermatology consult might be of benefit. Whichever way you go I'd stress the urgency of the situation. You might get more results with a geriatric specialist.
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Does his Dr. know all his symptoms? Anti anxiety meds can help a lot, at the right dosage.
Aging and dementia can be so frustrating for him and for you.
My mother was on Sertraline which didn’t help until she was gradually brought up to the right dosage. Then she was happy, relaxed and pleasant, instead of agitated and delusional.
It’s wonderful that you care and are involved in helping your father find help and comfort.
God bless you and give perfect guidance.
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First, I'm sorry you're dealing with this. Every twist and turn in this journey is a painful one. Second, someone introduced me to a phrase recently that I think could apply to what you're describing: manifestation of anxiety.

My 84 y.o. mother has Alz and is in the process of transitioning from rehab to a permanent new residence shortly (wish me luck), but growing up, she always had odd quirks and compulsively kept lists of the most trivial, unimportant things. She continued to do this till she broke her hip at 82, which triggered the onset of the Alz; she never recovered from the anesthetic but even before that, I figured she had mild cognitive impairment. Anyway, these lists...I found them recently and told the facilitator of our caregiver support group. She said things like this are manifestations of anxiety. It may be your father has had a suppressed anxiety, which may be coming out in the form now of talking about the war years and this new fixation he has. Something to think about and ask your docs.

Good luck to you.
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When my father did this I would give him an over the counter pain reliever on the off chance he had a headache. This seemed to help some. Same with the hands, his hands would get cold because of reduced circulation and then start aching. You might try giving him a lotion for his head and hands to put on, when his head is bothering him, tell him it’s to help it “crust” this should help with the irritation factor.
Wishing for good outcomes for you and your father.
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gdaughter Jan 20, 2019
Just want to be careful of the pain reliever not being habitual if not the acetaminophen type because long-term the others can cause serious kidney issues. My dad was taking one of the others without my awareness and his lab figures indicated kidney failure readings but improved by 3 months later...Also don't want to put any lotions on open skin or anything that could trigger an allergic reaction. Ask a dermatologist or pharmacist what is safe/non-fragranced etc.
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Thick gloves. My dad has a roommate who has similar issue.

Who knows how that drug is affecting the brain with delusion or if it's just dementia or something. Everyone is so different.

Which one is it? My dad takes 10mg of Lexapro and it's taken the edge off. I had him on natural remedies until they stopped working, trying to avoid any bad side effects. So far so good.

All the best to you and dad!!!
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Not a professional by any stretch, but I wonder if he's a little beyond the "mentally OK" stage? It's hard to accept, but could be true. His rubbing behavior and explanation for it don't exactly seem in the normal range.

I believe that reverting to talking about the distant past a lot, especially something from sooo long ago that was never talked about, also shows a marked level of decline.

Has he been evaluated for dementia? At 92, it's wouldn't be a surprise. My personal opinion is that almost everyone who lives long enough is going to end up with some level of dementia, unfortunately.

Good luck.
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gdaughter Jan 20, 2019
Agree with most of what you said...i.e. his self-censor not working as well evidenced by the now talking about the war. Dementia, yes, a possibility, but could still have an underlying issue. What I take issue with is the belief, realizing it is your opinion, that everyone will eventually develop dementia. Not everyone, fortunately, does.
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I am assuming that Dad lives alone, He is not in any Nursing facility?
Keep an eye on anything that could be harmful with Dad who if Living alone, You don't want it to come down that you ever are accused of Endangering the Welfare of a Vulnerable Elderly Person. I would suggest maybe a caregiver to help him.
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What antidepressant is he on? Maybe a switch is warranted. Celexa is often used for obsessive behaviors.
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cetude Jan 20, 2019
Any kind of psychotropic can also increase likelihood of falling.
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