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On Christmas, she got up at 6am because I was picking her up at... 1pm. When I questioned that, she took a nap and felt better but seemed to be confused again later in the evening. Today, at 3AM she called to ask if I had slept in, because I was supposed to take her to the Dr at 1230. Totally confused and it took her a few minutes on the phone to get it right....thoughts? Stroke? Can dementia come on really quickly? Thanks.

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With my MIL, a sudden confusion about day and night nearly always is our first clue to a Urinary Tract infection. Might be worth a trip to the doctor to check.
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Thanks to everyone for the great ideas and comments. I am very new to this site but have already learned a lot and feel better that I am not out there alone.
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I think that at a certain point, the concept of time is not something they can comprehend. It becomes unimportant to them. My cousin hasn't asked about time in a long time. I don't think she understands what it means now. Things happen in the moment and that seems all she is able to process.
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Rainmom- the pocket finder is good but you have to pay a service fee every month for it (about 12 dollars a month) ....what I like about it is that you can set up zones, so for example you could set up a zone around his school , and when he enters or exits the zone you get a text on your phone. You may want to look into "itrac" gps from what I understand there is no service fee because it uses cell towers to track the location. There are also those watches called "fit bits" that track your steps, your heart rate etc....I know one has a gps and you only have to charge it once every 3 weeks. Best to you and your son :)
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momsgotdementia - while this isn't my thread I wanted to say a huge "thank you" for the information regarding the "pocket finder"! My 22 yr old son has sever autism. He goes out several days a week with a paid companion - I am constantly worrying that he will wander off. I worry about it even when he's out with me! I will be looking into a pocket finder for him to tuck into his pant pocket. While it's not a perfect solution - he could take it out and drop it or if he were abducted it might get ditched - but it's certainly better than the nothing we currently are using! It's a controversial subject with disabled adult children but I swear I would chip him like a puppy if I could. Thank you so, so much for mentioning that something like this exists. I had no idea.
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Confusion over time is so common that, as Rainmom points out, they do make a few different models of "dementia" clocks.

From your profile it does seem that you know your mother has dementia. Are you asking if new symptoms can appear suddenly? That answer is YES. In fact, many symptoms couldn't really appear gradually. She either understands the ways we tell the difference between night or day, or she doesn't. There is no "gradual" about it.

When our mother lived with her, my sister updated a white board every morning. It said Today is Wednesday. We go to the beauty shop at 1:30. I am making cream puffs for dinner. This helped minimize the daytime confusion, but Mom was still confused at night. A clock that projected the time and AM or PM on the ceiling was somewhat helpful.

Both my husband and my mother lost the ability to judge the passing of time.

Would you like some tea and cookies, Mom?
Oh that would great if it's not too much trouble. (Minutes later): JEANNE, where are you and where is that tea?
I've been in the kitchen. The water hasn't boiled yet.
Oh. Well it seemed like you were gone a long time.

Your profile says that you live very near your mother, and that is a good thing! But as her dementia progresses it may not be sufficient. She may need in-home help, or perhaps spend part of her days in an adult day program. Being connected to you by telephone may not be enough for her, and it may become too much for you, if she calls every time she is confused.

Best wishes to both of you on this very challenging journey.
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This sounds exactly like my mom. My mom is only 68 she has had dementia for about 2 years though. I don't know about the suddenness of the dementia but I can tell you from my experience if they live alone, and they are calling at 3am, they may be wandering. Sometimes they are looking for something but they don't know what and they may walk to an old home they grew up in etc. Like my mom was. My mom would have an appointment at 11am and she would try to go to the appointment at 11pm. I had to stop telling her about appointments in advance and instead I would let her know an hour to the appointment then keep calling her at 15 minute intervals to remind her. I have a lot of care for her now (she has 15 hours a day and she goes to a dementia club 3 days a week) and I got her a GPS called "pocket finder" if things advance and you want to be sure she isn't wandering , I highly recommend the only thing is it needs to be charged every other day or so. And in order for it to work they need to remember it (for my mom I have it on her key chain) . She is definitely changing ...my mom used to love bathing at the end of every day and now she doesn't like bathing and refuses to wash her hair, i have heard this is a signal of dementia advancing.

A year ago things looked a lot different, she only had 20 hours of care per week, now it is 15 hours a day, and because of her wandering at night we are now placing her in a home. Things can change fast , not sure if this long comment helped or even answered your questions!!!
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My mom went through the exact same thing! OMG - the number of calls I got in the middle of the night - 3:00 Am "You said you were coming over at 2:00..." I showed her on her digital alarm clock where the light would be on at either am or pm. I showed her on the computer where the time was with am or pm. I told her to look out the frickin' window to see if it was dark out. Nothing worked. It's slowed down but a month ago she called at 5:00am asking why I hadn't picked her up for her doctors appointment yet - which was at 11:00! For this Christmas I got her a "dementia clock". It spells out in complete words - no abreviations the day of the week, the month, and then in numbers the full date with year and a clear am or pm. For some reason she doesn't understand it - keeps asking how it works. (Big sigh) - I'm hoping she will learn to just accept it as fact and go with it.
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Your profile says she has dementia, right? The progression of the symptoms varies according to the cause of the dementia. Often, Alzheimers seems to progress more gradually, where Vascular Dementia seems to progress in a more '"stepped down" manner. This can be rather rapid. Do you know what type she has?

In light of this sudden change, I would have her checked out by her doctor. It could be that she has a Urinary infection. Is she taking any new medications? The doctor should be able to rule out other things or attribute it to the dementia.

But, to answer your question, yes, my cousin's symptoms appeared rather suddenly. She went from running her own household to not being able to care for herself is just a few months. One day she suddenly could not figure out how to get out of her car. I didn't know about it, but apparently, it scared her and she put the keys away. She told someone that a girl had bought her car. (Was not true. She had delusions.) She also could not differeniate between 5 minutes or 5 hours. She would call someone on the phone, talk, hang up, then call again in 5 minutes with no memory of the previous call.

It might be a good idea for you to have her assessed, if it is dementia. Once this type of thing starts, it can be risky to leave them alone. I tried to get things out of my cousin's house like scissors, toaster, knives, cleaners, but, they are still vulnerable by being alone. Similar to a child being alone. I also turned off circuit breaker to the stove and dryer. They can get frightened, anxious and panicky. I would have her assessed to see what her needs are. After our visit, my cousin's doctor said she could not live alone.
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