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Hello All, My MIL has moderate Alzheimer's. Over the past six months, we've noticed she sometimes scratches her arms to the point she cuts through skin. At times, she was even eating her scab (sorry, I know it's gross). We take her to the doctor to get ointment, and she stops scratching, but she's now at it again. A relative suggested it may be anxiety? She's in assisted living, and we see her at least 3-4 times a week. She does not seem anxious when we visit. Does anyone have experience with anxiety meds and Namenda? Any input is appreciated. I'm grateful for all who have given advice and encouragement in the past. Thank you in advance.

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Thank you all so much!! To give a little more background, MIL is 74 years old. Before she was diagnosed, she was more on the self centered side and very controlling. After hearing her diagnosis two years ago, she has mellowed a bit. Still refuses to acknowledge the disease and calls it getting old. We have POA. A little more than a year ago, we moved her from a granny flat to the home she is now. She was resistant, but for the most part, is happy-she does have her grumpy day, but who doesn't? When we noticed her eating the scabs, and told her she needed to stop that, she did. But she was still scratching. The home does place ointment and bandages, but it comes off. My husband sees her at least 3 times a week. She has had depression from most of her life. It makes sense-she went from being very spoiled, and selfish and often controlling, to pretty much being confined to a home where she is monitored (she needs it), her cell phone had to be taken away (to eliminate 3 am phone calls to whoever she wanted to talk to), and has no cash or credit cards (she has no need to have cash on her). She has literally ripped off her ID necklaces because she doesn't want the world to know of her condition. She does have fragrance free toiletry items. We are going to move forward with the fidget pillow and explore the anxiety meds and see if it improves the condition. Thank you all again for taking the time to help me and my husband out, we appreciate it very much. We are both in our early 40's and work full time (he teaches and I have a government job). When we made the hard choice to place her in the home, we lost many of our "family friends" (we have no actual family on his side and my family lives about 8 hours away) because my husband did not take care of his mom as they say. Sorry, we moved her to a home run by a wonderful family that has a young boy and a small dog (MIL always loved animals), she is closer to us (13 minute drive vs. 45 minutes) and her doctors. I say my husband did what he was supposed to do and then some, lol! But that's another post. Thanks again all, and I will keep you posted!
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My dad did that. Scratched his legs until it looked like eczema. We bought loads of creams/lotions and doctor gave him cortisone cream, which helped.
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Not sure if this is the case with you, but for my mom, when I notice her scratching or scratch marks I'll ask her: 1. Are you wet, do you need to be changed? Being incontinent, she also does not feel when it happens. 2. Do you want a bath, to feel better? Then bathe and lotion on itchy areas and powder.
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I had been having problems with any little skin nick on my arms developing into a hematoma under the skin,sometimes fairly large. My doctor knows I don't take aspirin or anything that thins blood, as it makes it worse, but recently I decided to try Vitamin K, and a spot on my arm cleared up in 2 days. I've also had to watch for hangnails all my life, and right now all my nails are completely healed. Also speeds healing on nicks with scabs that are easy to peel. I ran out last week and it made a noticeable difference. Vitamin E squeezed from capsules helps skin things heal as well.
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Dad will be 97. In a NH with end stage Dementia. Very anxious, but instead of picking or scratching, he purse lip breathes and has tremors. His right eye also closes. The pursed lip breathing worries me. He continuously breathes in and out very quickly. I'm afraid he will hyperventilate. This has been happening more often lately, more since his communication is diminished. The Psychiatrist prescribed a medication to be given every 4 to 6 hours as needed. As of last night it hadn't really kicked in yet. You just never know what symptoms they will present with. Next week could be something completely different. Bless us all!
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I would ask about anti anxiety medication.
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FYI - The single most reported complaint of "old people" is said to be "itch". In my late seventies, I notice "itching" a lot, often with a little unexplained bump under the skin. One simple thing that stops itch is hot water... as hot as you can stand, but not be scalded. Stay under it for 2-4 minutes. It stops the itch for hours. Works great for poison oak, too. (But DO NOT use this techniques for hives.)

The job of the doctor is to prescribe medicine, not be familiar with folk remedies.

(If you want a professional reference, dig up a copy of the 1961 Dermatology: Diagnosis and Treatment)
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I was visiting Mother every three months when I was living in Colorado. She had scabs and sores all over her arms, shoulders, face from picking. Her nails were long shaped and she kept them polished herself. She was anxious about short term memory decline. We had Nurses Aids 15 minutes twice a day to give her eye drops, meds and to put salve on her sores and scabs. When Mother asked me to move back home in January of 2015, I came back to be her full time companion and caregiver. I moved slowly then trusting in the Facility and not wanting to upset the family by taking over from the facility they trusted. I watched as the Nurses Aids dabbed a bit of salve on 1/2 the irritated spots and scabs. They refused to change from the iddy bitty dotting of salve when I made the suggestion. As Mother and I got more comfortable in my new roll, Mother and I left the Nurses Aids go. I changed her Dr. from one who was political with the facility to one a little more for Mother's best interests first. I spread gobs of salve on her much irritated skin. Her skin cleared up. It took some time. I believe it cleared up from Mom feeling secure with me being her full time caretaker and the gobs of salve. Things fell apart after that. The overly loving and caring Nurses Aid Manager became livid that I interfered. There were horrible repercussions for my putting Mother's best interests first in this and other matters. They forced Mother out of her Independent Living Apartment to their Personal Care hellhole. They made up stories about me and cut my hours back to visitation. My son and I got Mother out of that facility alive and with her eyesight intact although her Glaucoma went from moderate to severe. The salve and cream was the beginning of the facilities resentments against me. It was a forecaster of horrible things to come in other areas of treatment. We are relocated to another facility that is close to my home and the facility is very supportive of my being Mothers full time caretaker. She is starting to pick again and I want to thank you for bringing up this subject as it is a reminder to get her to see the Dr. for a prescription salve and also of my responsibility to find out if she has any insecurities or worries she has not yet expressed.
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I don't know if these are still around, but maybe you might want to look for some type of mitts for self injurious people. Another thing you can do is take some first aid gauze and wrappings and wrap her hands that way to make those little mitts and keep her from hurting herself any further. This would be an alternative to drugging her
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It sounds like dry skin & can develope into a scratching habit - make sure she is drinking enough fluids & has a high strength moisturizer - don't use run of mill but ask your pharmisist for a recommendation ... possibly a Rx from dr. -

We use a Rx ointment for first aid that has a small amount of local anestetic in it - there are also anti-itch Rx but tend to make the person sleepy but good at night so they don't scratch in their sleep
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I have found that a pet will often help even if it is not there full time there are agencies that provide this service contact SPCA to get information. Also if she likes music get her hooked up with streaming music so she can listen 24-7 if she wants, mood music is good when trying to sleep.
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My mom has the same problem, but the skin is not itchy, she's just picking at the skins and then scabs. Tried the different gadgets, no go. Some of those are just gone. Ointments, none have work. She's been doing this for the last year. Bandaids are just taken off. She put Neosporin on the a few times a day, but still picking at the skin and scabs. Has dementia and depression and is 92 years old. Doctors have told me it's not uncommon with dementia and depression and 92 years old. Please let us know if you have anything that works. I did finally told her one day, that her picking reflexs off on me and people may not think I'm taking care of her. I am her daughter and caretaker as she lives with my husband and I.
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My DH had a rash and scratched all the time. I only learned this year that it was most likely a yeast infection and we should have been giving him something to help combat the yeast. The VA supplied an anti-yeast soap but I found 1/2 benedryl did a better job to stop the scratching and the rash. (you need the tablets to halve them, really cheap at Sam's Club)

Now he's on a 30-Billion Probiotic and Candida Support and I was actually able to stop the Benydryl! This cleared up the Candida (yeast) overgrowth in his gut and his appetite improved immensely!

Online I saw a picture of Yeast infection on the torso and it was the same spotted rash he had a couple of years back.

You can try the Benedryl as this is only an antihistamine and won't hurt her. But it can make her extremely drowsy, this is why I only gave half morning & night.

Always tell the primary physician about any medications, even allergy.
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My Mom has dementia and she has started scratching the top of her hands between her thumb and index finger. I'm sure it's a combination of nerves and boredom. She's developing these rough, raised discoloration spots as a result.
When we recently went to the neurologist I pointed it out, so hopefully she will have a plan of attack.
If I see Mom scratching I ask her to stop, but I didn't consider getting any lotion, because she lives in memory care and I don't think she would remember to apply it. I could ask them to remind her...
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My mom started with a picking disorder at about 80, looking back there were also early symptoms of dementia we didn't pick up on. She went to several psychiatrists to treat this obsessive compulsive disorder. We tried many drugs, some worked for a short time, most not at all. About a year ago she went under hospice care. They took her off several meds and put her on new ones for pain relief. One med they put her on was methadone. She came off hospice after 3 months, having improved and was no longer picking and we were able to get her palliative care who continued the methadone. She recently broke her other hip and can no longer walk and needs the care of a skilled nursing home. The NH doctor refused to continue the methadone although it had really helped with her chronic back pain. She started picking again. She is back on hospice care and on methadone and her picking has been reduced again. I don't know if this will help you or anyone but it really worked for my mom, watching her pick was really stressful for me as well. I do know the medical community, outside of hospice, is not a big fan of methadone, but is has really helped my Mom.
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Hi. My mom picks at her head. She now has 3 open sores and picks at the scabs constantly. This has been going on for about 3 yrs. Ive tried prescribed ointments but it does no good as she scratches that off also. Fingernails are kept short. I've even putting bandaids but she takes them off. I was told it was a fungus. I dont know what else to do. I think its entertainment for her because she's bored but has no interest in participating in activities.
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My Mom scratched her arms so much the skin started to thicken. Sometimes it signaled beginning of UTI. But as she continued to do it We addressed it with Gery psych he prescribed low does seroquel it made her sleepy at first but after a few days she adjusted and her arms have been clear.
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Tired already, if you get a fidgit item, let us know how it works!
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My aunt does this. Nose, ears, face, arms, legs, scalp. Not all at the same time, thank goodness. We use band aids when and where appropriate. She takes them off most of the time. We use lots of lotion. I buy a tee tree oil shampoo and conditioner and body wash. She also had weepy eyes and we started giving her claritin allergy tabs to see if they would help. Helped the eyes. Not sure about the scratching. I held a mirror up and showed her that she was scratching her face. She was upset and said I don't want to do that to myself. I try to keep the house cool and she wears long sleeve shirts and I think it does help for the arms. She takes Namenda. Hasn't been diagnosed with Alzheimers. Has some sort of dementia for sure. I also try to keep her nails trimmed short and ask her to stop scratching if she does it in front of me. She has a dog that sits in her lap most of the time and I think it does help her. Haven't tried the fidget items mentioned.
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Thanks Grammy and Sue C.
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My mom "picks" at her skin also but has had the habit most of her adult life. I remember red marks on her arms when I was a kid. Recently she picked a spot on her leg and developed cellulitis. I caught it and had the nurse take a picture of it and send it to the doctor of the facility. He ordered antibiotics and it healed.
I've heard that picking is common in patients with dementia.

You can check with her doc if any of the medicines she takes could cause itching. Get rid of any "itchy" clothing made of wool or animal hair. Cotton is probably the least itchy material. You could also try to keep her in long sleeved shirts (especially with buttoned cuffs) and/or gloves.

My mom's complaint for the last year is that someone is putting "itching powder" in her clothing. No amount of explaining that there is no such thing can convince her otherwise. (Silly on my part because I know that there is no reasoning with Alzheimer's!)
I made sure that her caregiver uses Dove moisturizing body wash, only bathes her twice a week and uses moisturizing lotion after the bath. Their glands don't work too well anymore and the skin needs some lubrication.

If she doesn't seem anxious when you visit, I would think that she's not anxious at other times either. I agree with the lap cushions/blankets above. It gives them something to "figit" with. (Button buttons, zip zippers, finger different textures, open pockets, play with the fringe, etc.
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You can Google them. It basically is an apron with fidgit gadgets on it. I put thing like a cord with wooden thread spools, a band with plastic rings that slide, etc. I just googled activity apron for seniors and a bunch came up. I used an old apron and adapted it to hook to her wheelchair. I don't know rules in facilities. You could make it on a lap cushion too if that works better.
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Thank you. What is an activity apron?
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She might just be bored. Are there activities? Does she participate in them? How about getting an activity apron or blanket? I made one for my mom back at that stage. A lap pet, stuffed not live, might also work as a distraction. My mom had a dog.

I also bought Lubriderm lotion and made sure to keep her skin moist...she complained she was itchy a lot at that time too. 

My mom has always been home with us so I am not sure these will work in your mom's setting but worth a try ;-)
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my mother scratches her ears. It's so weird. She also has red spots on her arms.
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