My family has been taking care of my grandmother (85 years old) for about 3 years now. She displays frequent bouts of confusion and paranoia and I'm not sure if she has dementia. I know that symptoms of dementia vary by patient but I'm just curious if this sounds like dementia to people with experience?
My grandmother has been living with us since my grandfather passed away about 3 years ago. Technically she has her own apartment but refuses to sleep there alone because she is "afraid". At first, she spent the days at her place and my parents picked her up around 6~7 PM after work since she hated being alone after the sun went down.
She's just gotten worse and worse about being alone since then and now takes the bus to our house at noon every day, effectively meaning that at least one person has to stay at home every day to let her in. It would be one thing if it was just that but her paranoia has been a constant. She often makes us drive her back to her place to "check" on various things: her rice cooker, the stove, the faucet, the windows, the lights, the list goes on and on. She has good days sometimes but other days she expects us to drive her to her place (a 30 minute drive each way) 3-4 times a day. If we refuse she will start crying and says that she will die otherwise or says that she'll just walk home (it would take hours!). She's alienated all of her friends back at her apartment complex because she calls them 6-8 times a day about whether her door is locked/her lights are off/etc.
The biggest incident was in late 2016 where she was very anxious about her rice cooker being plugged in. She had already been back to her house 2-3 times that day to check herself. My father went with her and checked as well. We all knew it was not plugged in. Our family was going to a movie and she pulled me aside and asked if I could drive her back to her place to check. I told her no since we were literally standing inside the theater and had already bought tickets. As soon as the movie ended she started causing a scene in the parking lot and threw herself onto the ground and said we had to take her to her apartment or she would die right then and there. When we got to her place, her rice cooker was CLEARLY unplugged. I even put my hand inside the cooker and found it to be cold - it hadn't been plugged in all day. But she insisted that it had been left plugged in and that it was a good thing we came back because otherwise her apartment would have burned down.
There haven't been any public tantrums since then but she has paranoia episodes at least 3-4 times a week. And she constantly lies about appliances being left plugged in. She'll also lie about the randomest things on the phone to other people. For example, I've seen her on the phone telling a neighbor that she was at the hospital when she was clearly standing in front of me in my home. She will be fine and laughing with us one minute and then when a call comes from my uncle, she'll immediately put on a sad voice and pretend to cry. I'm not sure if this is her hallucinating or if she is just trying to get attention from people by making up stories. She recently taped her light switches to the off position because she's convinced that they randomly turn on in the middle of the night. (she spends the night at my house. She wouldn't even be home at her place to see the lights turn on.) Her apartment management told her that this is a fire hazard and she should take the tape off but she thinks they are lying to her. She insists on keeping the tape there.
She's always convinced that people are lying to her. I travel out of state very frequently for business reasons and often take my mother with me. We try to tell my grandmother about these trips way in advance so she can make accommodations about going to stay with our cousin or at the very least be mentally prepared for our absence. But she always forgets all the times we let her know (and it's usually multiple times, more frequently as it gets closer to the date) until like a couple of days before our departure. Then she's convinced that we didn't let her know beforehand or she thinks that we had lied about leaving earlier just to get rid of her. Everything seems to be a conspiracy.
I've read that change in personality might be a symptom of dementia but the thing is that my grandmother has always been a very stubborn and rather self-centered person. She grew up fairly affluent and powerful and still thinks that she has the social privilege from an old world class system. She is neither rich nor powerful now. She has been emotionally abusive toward to my mother all her life so I'm not sure how much of this is her personality and how much of this is an actual illness. My mother is considering taking her into see a doctor to see if this is really dementia. Is there anything we should prepare beforehand? What can we do if it is?