Has anyone experienced constant "sickness" in someone with dementia?

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My grandmother (83) has early to mid-stage Alzheimer's and moved into an independent retirement facility a few months ago. Before her move, and since, she calls me several times a day reporting that she feels "sick". I try to get her to list symptoms, and sometimes they include headache, sore abdomen, dry mouth, shaky, and/or tired, but more often she describes it as "just plain sick" or "very, very tired" and "no appetite". Every day it is "the worst day yet", but when the symptoms and feeling of sickness disappear later in the day, as they often do, it's as though it never happened. In the past, she would call me several times and insist on going to the Emergency Room or the doctor's office. I would leave work to pick her up, but when I'd arrive and ask how she was doing, she'd say "Oh, fine!". If I'd say "Oh, you weren't feeling well earlier" (as in 15, 20 minutes ago), she'd say "Oh, wasn't I?!" as though it had never happened. On the other hand, it can sometimes last all day no matter what I try or whether or not I visit, or for more than a day at a time.


Some people have suggested she wants me to come over; I don't believe this to be the case, at least not consciously. Many times my going over doesn't help her feelings of illness. I worry she is somehow in a kind of loop - she's always checking her calendar, counting the number of days each month that she's been sick, and fixating on it (she operates primarily on notes in her day-to-day life - the only way she can really remember anything like instructions or reminders, etc., is by reading her notes). So I don't know if this can make it happen in a sense? Either way, it's extremely confusing and stressful, and sometimes she is almost crying on the phone and there's nothing I can do, making me feel really powerless to help. I try to get her to engage herself in a book, activity, etc., to take her mind off it, but after awhile she gets frustrated by that and says I don't believe her, "it's physical" or "it's real, why will no one help me".


Has anyone else experienced this constant "sickness" in someone with dementia or have any insights into dealing with it? I am going to meet with a geriatric psychiatrist today, so hopefully she can help.

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i was wondering about blood sugar as well, but I had to get off of blood pressure med some years ago because it was making me dizzy. The end of that med came when I got up one morning and literally fell over onto the floor. (I did try it again some months later and sure enough, within a day I was dizzy again.) Could it be a food sensitivity to something she has for breakfast??
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I think your grandmother is at a dangerous stage transition to severe Alzheimer's, which experience frequent (at least 1-2 times a week) nightmares, night sweats, or early morning hallucinations. That will make her very confused and very low energy during day time. If she does not get help now, she will become severe case without memory of families, daytime salivation, and possible losing bladder and bowel movement control at night, etc.
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Feeling lousy is also a symptom of depression. And those with dementia are prone to depression as their brains shrink. This is why many neurologists put dementia patients on antidepressants early in their disease. Talk with Mom's neurologist.
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A person with dementia is ill. Although, she may be blowing illnesses out or proportion or perhaps she really isn't physically sick at all.
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If mother is a Type II diabetic, I'd have the staff ensure that her blood sugar is indeed low, before drinking juice or eating extra carbs, because, high blood sugar can you make you feel sick too. So, maybe logging her daily a.m. blood sugar would be helpful, so they can confirm whether it's okay, too high or too low.
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Something Garden Artist said in the first comment prompted me to add that sometimes a very full breakfast, combination of foods, or the order in which eaten can have some effect on a person. When I was growing up my sister and I were given a glass of orange juice as the first breakfast item; I never felt quite right afterward, and it was only years later I realized that drinking juice at the end of the meal seemed to work much better for me. In addition, a big breakfast can make some people feel sluggish. Finally, some people simply don't tolerate a large breakfast (or, for some people, any breakfast at all). In any case, this might be something to consider.
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In my mother's experience, she was taking anxiety meds before the dementia was diagnosed. We were in awe at how crazy she was acting- mixing up stories from different decades and insisting I was there when I hadn't even been born. Granted she does have high anxiety but in most cases anxiety comes from depression. The doctor explained that xanax (or any benzodiazepines) makes dementia worsen that it is far safer for their mental status to try an antidepressant to fix the issue rather than to medicate as a bandaid. There is also more of a fall risk with benzodiazepines.

This is only our experience but it is worth checking all avenues. I hope you figure it out.
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Yes, my 93 year old Mom experienced the same thing & still does occasionally. Hers was stomach pain to the point she was sure she was experiencing appendicitis or gall bladder attack. Then it was constipation & her bowels must be blocked. To & from doctor & hospital. Always in the mornings! Long story short - much of it is depression & anxiety. That seems to go hand in hand with dementia/alzheimer. The doctor prescribed an anxiety med for her & we have tweaked it & changed it twice. She is now on Mirtazapine/Remeron since moving into AL that seems to be working extremely well. She has adjusted to her new home, loves community & feeling needed & now rarely complains. It is such a sad time to watch your loved one feel so bad & be helpless. You are doing all the right things, but you will have to persevere with the doctors pushing the fact that she needs anxiety meds or perhaps a different one. There are many out there to try, finding the right ones can take time. Best wishes & hugs in your arduous journey. I'm right there with you!
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Have you considered that it could be her morning medication? Some meds need to be taken with a full glass of water. If she is not doing that, then she could be experiencing some symptoms for that.
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Hi MDM,
I have been diabetic since I was 11, for 43 years now, so I know a LOT about it! 🙂
I bet your moms blood sugar level is too low in the mornings and that would definitely make her feel " sick all over", no appetite and tired,among other bad feelings. I get that same way when I wake up and my blood sugar is too low, usually around 70 or lower. I usually drink 1/2 cup of juice, which raises the blood sugar level within about 12 minutes, and after about 30-45 minutes, all those bad feelings I was having just disappear and it's like all of a sudden it's a completely different day!
I saw a tv show once about a guy that adopted a mini chihuahua. The little dog was very unresponsive and would just lay around the house all day and not want to interact. The owner brought him to several vets that couldn't find anything wrong. Finally a new vet checked the cute little puppy's blood sugar and discovered it was too low. The vet gave it some sugar in water and suddenly the dog became a preppy, happy and normal dog!
The dog was suffering from hypoglycemia ( the opposite of diabetes) and needed some carbohydrates at each meal!
After the discovery, he became the real dog he was always meant to be!
So maybe the nurses could bring some juice or candy to your mom every morning? Fruit? Fruit juice? Anything she likes, just to get her blog sugar to rise. Best of luck to you! 😇
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