Can dementia be sudden?

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My mother started acting strange on Tuesday. She suddenly didn't believe it was Christmas and thought we were all just puting on a show but she didn't know why. We took her to the ER on Christmas Eve and they found nothing live threatening. She is insisting that she has missed a year of her life, her grand children are a year older and all the TV shows are old. She is 65 years old. We will see a Dr next week but I am worried. She hasn't even for a moment came back to us since Tuesday. I just never thought dementia could happen so quick.

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Lesanne, that's a near-classic story and your interpretation is spot on. She probably had withdrawal from all the meds... my mom also made errors with one of her meds and it may have led to the fall that led to her losing her independence for good. But we will not ever know that for sure. I think most of the time when things go downhill fast it is due to a "vicious cycle" phenomenon of one kid or another.
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Arretsax, if you can't get a neuro, try starting with a geriatric service (gerontologist, comprehensive geriatric eval) - I would be suprised if they would not take Medicare!
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Thanks for your responses. We are still trying to see a neurologist. We have no diagnosis. Apparently there is not a neurologist in our area that will medicare patients. I have offered to just pay to have them help us at least initially but but they still dont want to set up an appointment. My mother is coherant enough to know she is not thinkinh correctly. It is so hard for her and us. I reallt just dont know what to do.
Lesanne thank you for sharing your story. I have been looking at my mothers finances etc. It really all looks fine. She takes care of my elderly grandparents their meds and finances look fine. I reallt think it was sudden. I just wish there was something to help her.
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Arretsax; I can't emphasize enough how much more information you'll get out of a good neuropsych exam. My mom, who has vascular dementia from a stroke, still regularly scores 15/15 on MSE's. However, three hours of pencil and paper testing, before her second stroke, showed marked impairments in logical thinking and reasoning skills that were indicators that she could no longer function on her own. Hope mom's been for more testing and that you've got reports!
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Lesanne what's so interesting about your MIL's situation is which came first, the dementia or the over medicating and messing up her insulin (and probably her brain). I'm wondering if the mess-up in meds caused her sudden decline in dementia? I'm so sorry for your MIL and your family. As a single 65-year old (no kids), when I read stories like this, a chill goes through me! Yikes.
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My MIL's dementia started extremely sudden just a few months after she turned 65. We normally saw her about once a week sometimes every other week. She was completely independant, normal and functional (or so we thought). She drove, she had an active social life, managed her own finances, lived alone like any other 65 year old woman.

One evening last May we got a call from her friend that she didn't show up for game night and hadn't answered her phone all day. We had the apartment super unlock her door and her friend found her passed out in bed. She had soiled the mattress several times and it took about 20 minutes to get her to sit up. By then we had arrived and rushed her to the ER. She had no memory of the last few days, she did not know her name or age but she did know my husband and me. She was so confused and kept asking where she was. They did every test available, CT, MRI, EEG and they all came back normal. She was in the hospital for 8 horrifying days! She went through hallucinations, crying, repeating random words all day long, staring into space for two days, at one point she started crying and yelling and speaking Spanish! She does not know any Spanish! On day 8 she had a massive seizure and was moved to the ICU. The next morning when she awoke she was completely normal again! They released her two days later.

We brought her to our home to recover. It wasn't until the morning after we got her home that we realized she was not fine! She couldn't seem to remember anything from the last year. Just like you said with your mom. She swore that the kids looked different (older) that her hair looked different than she remembered. She also was having trouble with short term memory. She could only remember new information for a few days then it was gone. We took her for a follow up with the neurologist about 20 days later and they did a MME exam on her. She passed with flying colors. She seemed perfectly normal to everyone else but we noticed little things over the next few weeks that no one would know unless they talked to her everyday. She had no concept of time. She would say something happened yesterday when it was really a month ago. She was going long periods without showering, not paying bills on time, spending money she didn't have. She just kept getting worse.

We just kept taking her back to the Neuro until they sent her for a Neuro Phych test., it was two, 2 hour test on two different days where they compared her answers. It has been 8 months now and we finally got a diagnosis of vascular dementia. The doctor said it was probably "brewing" for a long time and something triggered it. We discovered a few months into all this that she had been going to two different doctors, and four pharmacies! She was taking three to four times the normal dose of about 9 different medications and on top of it all, she is type 2 diabetic and apparently had forgotten how to calculate her insulin dosages. In the months leading up to her collapse she had used 4 times her normal amount of insulin. She was also on super high doses of Xanax, Vicodin and two different muscle relaxers.

As we dug deeper into her life and her finances we found that she had spent over $4,000 on QVC and HSN over the last twelve months. Her friends also told us about things where she seemed to get lost and confused and had even fallen a few times and made them swear not to tell her family!

We saw her almost every week and never had a clue! She had become a master at hiding her memory problems and confusion. Now her short term memory last only 30 minutes or so, then she will ask the same question again or tell the same story again. She can't remember that she is ill. So she is angry and confused a lot about why she has a home health aide. She has worsened very rapidly.

I guess the point of this very very long post :) was to share our experience with you to show that It's very possible that your mom has been having issues for a long time and it has just reached a point where she can't hide it anymore. Keep digging, and push the doctors! They don't know her like you do or care like you do. You have to force them to find the answer.

I know this is extremely hard to deal with at her young age. I hope for you and your mom that it is something reversible but if not you have found a good place for support! I wish you the best!
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It really is stressful. I have been doing it for only a week and i do not know how my mom did it. We wont get any answers until after the holidays. I hope she can make it that long. She realizes she isnt thinking right and cries a lot. Her memory is really good still. It really seems too sudden. I am thinking it might be a stroke. Thanks again for your answers i really appreciate it.
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Arretsax, thanks for the update, that changes my answer. For your Mom's sake I hope it isn't any more serious than a melt down from caring for her aging parents.

I am a firm believer that senior citizens should NOT be caring for older senior citizens on a full-time bases, especially one's parents as what happens is that the family dynamic goes back to the child vs parent relationship. There's a reason one very rarely sees a staff member at the hospital or rehab/long-term-care who is over the age of 60. We just can't do it any more.

My parents were also in their 90's and I developed serious health issues and even memory issues all due to the major stress, and here I wasn't even hands-on. But seven years of driving them to appointments, grocery shopping, helping here and there, and my parents refusing outside help and refusing to even think about moving to a retirement village, plus being employed took a toll on me.
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I'm glad she's getting an MRI and checking her carotid arteries (hopefully both sides of her neck). Did you try any of the stroke tests on her? Have her smile big and see if one side is lopsided, have her raise both arms equally and see if they're similar, have her stick out her tongue and see if it goes to one side? Those are all ways you can tell someone has had a stroke. Is her speech the same as before she lost a year?

You can also google "Transient epileptic amnesia" to see if that sounds like what your mom is experiencing. Please come back and let us know how she's doing. I'm also 65...so her symptoms are scary!
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She actually lives with my father. She has been caring for her parents for years now (ages 91 and 96). She saw a dr yesterday and passed the mental tests they gave her with 100%. They ordered and MRI for tomorrow and another test to look at carotid artery. I am just baffled and i am worried that they are missing something that could have been reversible. Im alsoworrid that if it is a stroke it could happen again before her neuro appt on the 15th. I really dont know what to do.
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