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My MIL, who has always been manipulative, is now beginning the process of testing for dementia. She has for years stated that she was going to get it and has for years blamed small things on likely early stage dementia. Some minor examples include, when at her home she can't remember how to use the remote when someone else wants to change the channel but she can always do it when she wants to change. She won't let anyone else use the remote. When we are out about town she remembers directions to all of the places she wants to go but not anywhere else. We always end up eating where she wants because she finds some issue with every other restaurant. She participates in social groups until she is no longer the one running the group or the major influence. If someone else insists on planning functions or activities (or becomes a focus of attention) she withdraws from the group. These are minor examples, she has done worse. Her kids have tried to talk with their dad over the years about her controlling and manipulating but he will get angry and defend her.
Now all of these same issues are being presented by her (and him) as dementia. They have not completed testing yet and they are the only ones talking to the Dr.s. We understand the testing results are based on behavior and cognitive assessments but her behavior has been consistent as far as anyone can tell. Is there anything other family members can do to help sort this out? No one wants to be unsupportive if she is really in the early stages but no one wants to be played if this is just a way to justify continued control and manipulation. We are concerned for her and for FIL, who has only ever defended her regardless of how she has manipulated and hurt family and friends. None of us know quite how to respond. Overall we are waiting for the testing results or any indication that she is forgetting something that would otherwise matter to her. Any input would be appreciated. Thank you.

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I'd say try not to make things hard on your dad. He obviously doesn't want to hear criticism of her, and it won't do any good at all, so give up on that one thing.

What would happen if you did ask to be in on a doctor's visit? If she doesn't object, no problem. What might be better would be to get her to sign a HIPPA release so you can talk to the doctor outside her presence.

I get the feeling you want to reform or correct her. That's natural. My father was a rage-a-holic and alcoholic. I just wanted him to STOP DRINKING and BE REASONABLE. Needless to say, it never happened. Your mother is never going to straighten up and fly right, either.

You can keep on setting limits and calling her on her misbehavior, even if she has dementia. There will come a time when you will see that she is past controlling any of her behavior, but it's not that time now.

I see with my husband that some of the "character flaws" that he has always had do seem to be worsened by the dementia. It's an interesting question to ponder. Were they very early signs of the disease or not? On the other hand, he has become more affectionate and eager to please. Many people report that in the later stages their difficult parent may become easier to love. You can look forward to that.

My current library book is "Alzheimer's Early Stages," by Daniel Kuhn. It's useful because it's more about the relationship and less about incontinence and tube feeding. Good luck on this journey that will teach you things you never wanted to know.
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Just to let you know, your examples do not sound like Dementia or Alzheimer's, it does however sound controlling and manipulative as you mentioned. I would wait to hear from the parents but then who knows what or if they will tell you. Sounds like she likes being the center of attention no matter if it is good or bad.

Best Wishes to All of You!
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Persons with dementia should always be accompanied into the doctor's office. Usually this is by a caregiver, probably in this case your father. In my opinion, elderly persons should also be accompanied into the doctor's office, but I am not prepared to define "elderly." :-)

One of us kids has gone to every doctor appointment with our mother since her mid-eighties. I went to nearly every one of my husband's appointment since he developed dementia. The few times I was sick myself one of our kids went with him.

Whatever the results of the tests, now would be a good time to encourage your parents to take care of such things as health-care directives, POA, wills, etc. These need to be done while the person is still competent to do them. Early dementia won't prevent that from happening, but that can change more quickly than we suspect.

Also, Mom and Dad should file at their doctors' offices a HIPPA waiver form, saying who has permission to get medical information. This would allow you, for example, to call the doctor with questions or information. Most clinics have forms available for this purpose.

Perhaps what your father is seeing now is more severe than you are aware of. For example, maybe whe is withdrawing from social activities she would formerly have been eager to attend. Maybe she is forgetting things that she would have wished to remember. Since he is with her all the time, he may be seeing things not apparent to you. In any case, it will be interesting to see what the tests reveal.
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Thanks for the suggestions. And no, we do not bow to the manipulation usually....at least not on the big things. The things I mentioned are small and petty by comparison and not generally worth the battle. Our concern is that everything that she is now thinking is a symptom is just how we have always seen her...withdrawing from social activities (when it suits her), forgetting things (that are not important to HER), etc. I guess we will wait and see how it plays out.
At some point should other family members ask to be in on Dr. visits?
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Do wait for the test results and adjust your interactions with Mom based on that. But whether she has dementia or not, you do not have to allow yourselves to be manipulated by her. You may feel a little more kindly toward her if you feel she can't control her behavior, but that still doesn't mean you have to subject yourself to her control.

If she does have dementia (or develops it later) I recommend reading up on the disease, and perhaps joining a support group. Learn how to be supportive of your dad, who is certainly going to need it, even if you haven't approved of his enabling behavior over the years.
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