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My 85 year old Dad is in rehab because he had sepsis and the stress is very hard on my Mom. This is a woman who has never written a check for a bill in her entire adult life and that was just fine with her. The gender roles that my parents have are by mutual consent. My brother has stepped in to help Mom with finance management. For the first time ever, Mom is having to look at that part of her life. The picture is not pretty. My brother tells me my parents are in deep financial trouble, something I suspected was coming coming on for a number of years now.

The reason I mention this is because Mom has never handled stress very well. As long as I can remember, one of her coping mechanisms has been to become confused and flustered, almost like a child. I believe my Mom has an untreated mental disorder, bipolar and anxiety disorders run rampant in her family. She can't help herself, that is for sure.

So getting to my question. Moms mental abilities have diminished drastically since Dad has been sick. She was tested for dementia/Alzheimer about five years ago but the test indicated she did not meet the criteria. I don't know anything about the nature of the test that was given. Her problems with memory and confusion come and go but I notice they have gotten worse in the past few years. Now they are really bad. I am very concerned.

My questions. Should I gently suggest Mom be tested again for dementia? Does mental illness sometimes cause dementia? Are there a number of types of dementia and if so can someone suggest a good website to learn about them?

Thanks

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Here is something else I thought about.... prescription medication can cause side effects such as anxiety. I ran into that very problem a few years ago with a cancer medicine and the doctor changed me to something else, and it was much better..... my elderly Mom has the same issues with certain pills.... she has no problem if her pills come from one pharmaceutical manufacturer.

Medicines contain *fillers* that are use to make the pill larger so one could easily handle the pill and binders are used to keep the pill together [common fillers are lactose (milk sugar), microcrystalline cellulose, corn starch, sugars, whey and yeast]..... there are even coatings on the pills so the pill doesn't dissolving too soon [common coating is shellac, yes shellac] .... some of those items could cause a reaction to the person taking the pill.
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Dementia of all types is progressive, so that fact that she did not meet criteria several years ago does not mean she might not now. Dementia and mental illness are two different things and one does not necessarily bring on the other. Combining dementia with a lifelong severe, untreated anxiety disorder, if that's what she has, is going to make for some rough traveling ahead. She has been comfortable with a dependent role all her life, rather than actual treatment, but may really need it now. Hopefully a good geriatriatrician will be able to help her and a comprehensive re-eval might really be in order.
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I will definitely have Mom get a urine test! I can't believe I did not think of that. She is prone and we have had issues with this before. Thank you for the suggestion.

And thank you, fregflyer, for sharing your story. It makes me feel more sane when I hear that other people have similar situations in their families :)

Mom has always been terrified of being alone at night. Once when I was a little kid (about age 7-8) Dad was working late and Mom thought she hear someone outside. She got me up out of bed to be with her. I am the oldest and she relied on me for emotional support. This happened during the time when they had not caught the Boston strangler yet and we live in Massachusetts. She was hysterical and made us both lay on the floor so no one could look in the window and see us. My brother and sister were sleeping upstairs and I was afraid for all of us. It was terrifying. I have mentioned before that I think Mom has a mental disorder but she will not have anything to do with psych care.

The other evening I was visiting and noticed she had a chair barricading the cellar door and she kept asking me if I heard anyone outside. It was deja vu and I worried her paranoia would escalate. Truth to tell though she is doing much better than expected. She seems to be getting through the nights OK, just that one incident. My nephew and his family live next door to her. Maybe that helps her to feel safe plus my siblings and I are in constant contact with her by phone if we can't be there.
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Ah, a memory of a couple years ago when my Dad at 88 was in rehab after having surgery. I was so surprised to find that my Mom, who has always had a very strong personality, was afraid of being alone at 92. She kept that fear well hidden until after the fact.

And how true about the gender roles, only difference was Mom did all the bill paying and Dad was the one who rarely wrote a check or balanced the checkbook. Recently Mom has been trying to teach Dad now. Same with Mom trying to show Dad how to do laundry, how to do some vacuuming, and light cooking.... he just zones out because that stuff is *woman's work*..... [sigh]
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I didn't see anyone suggest that your Mom might also have an I diagnosed UTI (urinary tract infection). The elderly who acquire one will have symptoms quite similar to dementia. A simple urine test might be your answer to your Mothers decline.
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Thank you both. My Mom is not carrying the load for my Dads care, she does visit him in rehab each day but usually one of us (the siblings) takes her over there and she is not dealing with any paperwork or medical decisions to speak of. She is however being made aware of what is going on and finding it all very stressful. She has never and will not have anything to do with psych meds or counseling, I wish...

I think I will ask her to talk to her primary care physician, maybe she will let me go with her.
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Stress can cause forgetfulness.

Mental illness does not cause dementia.

If your mom has a mental illness and is not being treated for it she may be symptomatic. Symptoms can become worse under stress.

There's "Dementia" and then there are also other types of dementia. Only a Dr. can diagnose dementia, usually after extensive testing oftentimes done by a neurologist. But start with your mom's primary care physician.
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Be aware that stress or depression can cause a person to mentally shut down. First take a look at what meds she is on now and second, have a discussion with her MD about what might help her. An anxiolytic? An antidepressant? If she is doing all the hands on with Dad, maybe some aides to take the load off? That would be ordered by the MD as well.
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