Can a person with moderate dementia turn “sweet and sour” on a whim?


My mother, who has Vascular Dementia, lives in an assisted living facility in their the memory care unit. Last week I took her to the Dr. to get her wrist rechecked (she had broken it recently in a fall), and a couple of other places she wanted to go. When we got to the last place, (the vet, to get some cat food), I told her she could just stay in the car if she wanted. I thought it would be easier on her and it would only take me a couple of minutes. Immediately I could tell something was wrong because she was glaring at me. I asked her what was the matter and she said she had wanted to go in. Fine, great, come inside with me. “No, you don’t want me to!” Long story short, she remained mad at me and we didn’t go out to lunch as we had planned because she decided she didn’t want to be around me when I was treating her so badly. When we got back into the AL building, she saw someone she knew in the reception area and was SO SWEET to that person. My brother says it’s due to the dementia. She doesn’t pull this kind of crap on him, by the way. And she does it quite often to me, the one person in the family that takes her for outings. If she can be selective enough to be sweet to one person, but sour to me, is that the dementia?

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Yes. It is the dementia. What you describe is not logical or rational behavior. She gets no benefit from it. In fact she lost out on a nice lunch because of it.

It is not the logical and reasonable part of her brain that is behaving this way. It is definitely the dementia.
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You just described my experience with dementia parent. Flip the moody / nasty to sweet and charming switch several times, always depending on who is witness to the scenario.

Stay strong and try not to let it wear on you.
Helpful Answer (17)

My mom does this too, mostly on outings. I think they start to get tired or over whelmed and that is how they respond. I have stopped taking her to more than one or two places on one outing. This seems to have helped. Good luck this dementia thing is very perplexing to me too.
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I agree with all the responses that those who care for the loved ones with dementia the most are the ones who often get whacked. My husband is like that sometimes too with me, but not to friends and relatives who come to visit. It is easy to say to brush it off, but gets to you after a while.
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Folks with dementia have broken brains. They misinterpret what is being said to them.

It's the dementia.
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My aunt is exactly the same way. It wears on you, but try and keep a positive outlook. My standard response is, "I am really sorry that you feel that way."
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Oh this dang dementia! It seems to strike out at those who are closest and most available, those who have been in the most trusted, loving relationships. And it uses the bodies of our dearest loved ones to do it. In the case of our family, it is my mother’s AD, and sometimes my father’s vascular dementia that sometimes has them lashing out at each other in ways (words) I never would have thought possible after 58 years of loving marriage. (They share an AL room in a graduated care facility.) Since I am across the country, I am generally spared from the brunt of these episodes, other than being referee by phone during my daily “visits.” Fortunately, their dementia allows them to quickly forget any pain they may have caused one another and they return to their loving selves, usually the next day, until the next episode. It is indeed heart breaking what this dang dementia does to our loved ones, to relationships, and to those who love and care for the ones it attacks. My heart hurts for you just as it does for my folks. Be sure to take care of yourself especially well on the days when it hurts.
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It's hard not to get your feeling hurt and become upset, I'm sorry you have to tolerate this. Try to remember she doesn't mean it.
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I was told at a Dementia seminar that old traits become exaggerated more. Ie. real nice people gets nicer, really negative more negative. This was a great question to share with everyone as my brother and I are going through the same thing with my dad. We get the brunt of his negativity, but in front of others he is nice. Makes it hard for anyone to even believe he has issues, and harder on us as they may think his diagnosis is incorrect. However they see other traits that they cannot dismiss. But they are hardest on those close to them. I am trying to build up a thick skin. It’s so hard.
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It isn't so much "on a whim" - I don't believe it is a choice.

The brain functions can depend on external stimuli and medicines - kind of like some days I wake up 'chipper' and some days 'just stay out of my way' - these are not by choice but if my sugar goes up, I am not the same person as when it is controlled.

Fortunately I can tell when my sugar is up and I can warn my DH that it will not be a good day for me. This way although it bothers him, he won't take it personally if I "snap" more for little things. I have no control over this and I explain it to him every time I have a day like this.

I say I don't have control - but to be perfectly honest, it comes the day after a sugar-binge.
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