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.
My mother's misuse of Metformin caused so much trouble. We went to several doctors to find what the problem could be. The only thing anyone found was lots of bubbly gas in her intestine. It wasn't until I counted her pills that I realized what was wrong. No wonder she was sick!
Some elders can be bothered by Metformin. A good endocrinologist may be able to pick something that will work better with your mother.
After a while I noticed that she always feels worse in the morning. Normally as the day wears on, she starts to feeling better. There are some days when she doesn't, but most days she is okay. We just have to make it through the morning. I think that in the morning she is a little dizzy and it gives her a sense of being sick. Many people are the same way about mornings.
Some things that could be relevant -- Is your mother diabetic and on oral medication? Is she on blood pressure medication? These things can have an effect on how people feel.
I agree that the mornings are probably the worst for her, so thanks for pointing that out - maybe if she was engaged in some way first thing in the morning, it would help get her over that slump.
She takes Metformin for diabetes and Coversyl for high blood pressure (and Galantamine for dementia). She actually seems to be in very good physical health, though - she is very agile, spry, and has no other serious health conditions. Her diabetes is managed with the medication, and the high blood pressure I'm not too familiar with - she was taking that before I got involved in her care 2 years ago so I am not sure on the history of that.
I should book an appt. with her GP to ask whether something can be changed in her medication that might help with this.
Obsession is fairly normal at that stage. At least this is a mild obsession ;-) One thing is for certain... This too shall pass.
I try to find out what she's eaten in the morning, but she doesn't remember. I had her make a food chart when she lived at home, but now it's more difficult, as she goes down to the dining room for meals.
Perhaps I will ask the dining room attendants to keep a closer eye on what she's eating, but of course they are very busy! Thank you the book recommendations - I will look the author up. I will also see if a doctor can look into the anomalies you speak of in her blood work, rather than just conducting the general, run-of-the-mill tests.
It's also good to know that obsession, and awaking with anxiety, can be a typical thing at this stage.
I'd also consider that she may need more consistent reassuring. Can the staff do that where she is? My LO told me that she was scared a lot. She said that things were changing and she seemed to be in a dream. No doubt, things can be scary. I wonder if having staff who are available to give her redirection and comfort would help.
I'd also consider that her reports of issues could be delusions. I might discuss with her doctor and ask for a geriatric psychiatrist referral.
However, this Metformin idea is a fantastic one, JessieBelle! I'm going to call the pharmacist right now, and then look into seeing an endocrinologist. I have to check what time she takes the Metformin, because she is usually sick in the morning - if it's a morning pill, then that seems like a solid lead! I'll also ask the pharmacist if there are any other concerns he might have, as you suggest GardenArtist.
Thanks so much for the ideas - I will let you know how it goes. Perhaps this could help your mom as well, Nomad!
Definitely check on that!!
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