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Grandma refuses to get an MRI. Her memory problems are clear to everyone else. But she insists that she is just fine and says she feels like everyone is "railroading" her. I know that her doctor says we need to be firm and let her know when she has forgotten something, mixed things up, or is confused.... but she gets defensive. He feels its just age related dementia, but wanted an MRI just incase. I want her to get the MRI so that if there is anything we can do to slow down the progression of memory loss, we can do it before things get worse. I feel like we are in a race against time and the longer we wait, the more of grandma we are going to loose. I've been doing everything i can to keep her in her home and keep her independent... but I know that if things get much worse, i will not be able to provide much more help. I am afraid that at this rate, it won't be more than a few months before something drastic happens and she is back in the nursing home. Winter is coming, and we live in an area with harsh winters.. i live only two miles from her home.. but two miles can become impossible in some of the storms we get. My gut is just tied into knots right now thinking about her and winter. I don't know if i'm really looking for advice, because i know i cannot force her to do anything, and its clear that at this point i cannot reason with her. She's enough with it, that i don't think we can declare her incompetent.. and i don't want to do that any way....I wish there was an easier solution to all this mess.

Please tell me that someone understands how frustrating, heartbreaking and overwhelming this all is? I don't think my family would get it.. my mom would, but i don't want to talk to her about it, she has finally gone back to school and for the first time in her life she is happy and working towards doing something good for herself, and i want her see her succeed.

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I should have added that my mom knows she has memory problems, though. She had been to a class for seniors on ways to deal with memory loss and being with others in the same situation made her less defensive about it.
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When my mom balks at tests, I keep telling her that it's just another test the doctor wants and she shouldn't worry about it, basically. I keep telling her they just want to make sure nothing is wrong in that area and that that's the easiest way to do it - to do whatever test they want to do (unless it's something invasive, then that's a little different conversation).

Sometimes, I'll ask why Mom is so resistent to something and I'm surprised at the answers I get, but am sometimes able to respond to her fears in a way that makes her likely to do it.

Because of her memory loss, I could actually just schedule her and take her for anything. I hesitate a bit to suggest you just schedule this and take her and refuse to take her home if she doesn't do it, but I might do that with my mom if she gets worse. Right now, I can still reason with her, but if something was for her own good, I might just do this, myself.

My mom is also 86. She had been resistent to a lot of tests and such until she did actually almost die because of something that would possibly sound kind of trivial but that was really serious. Now, she has realized that she's not ready to go and that her health isn't that bad as long as she goes along with a lot of this - that she doesn't want to help the grim reaper by not taking good care of herself.
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It sounds like you are doing a good job of gradually accepting your limited control in your grandmother's life. Good for you!

As for the MRI, as vstefans points out, it will not produce definitive results anyway. (And the doctor who recommends it sounds like an idiot.) My husband was treated for his dementia at the Mayo Clinic. He was in a research study and worked with one of the foremost researchers in the country. Part of the protocol (for research more than for the patient) was an MRI at several points along the way. My husband never had one because he had a pacemaker. This did not prevent the doctor to diagnose his type of dementia (verified by autopsy after death) and to treat him very effectively.

Don't stress out over the MRI. It really wouldn't buy Grandma much, and she is opposed to it.

And don't follow her doctor's advice to rub her nose in every memory lapse and every evidence of confusion. No point to it. Cruel besides.

As your dear GM develops symptoms, treat them appropriately. Treatment might include just keeping her safe, not allowing her to be alone during storms, perhaps some meds if she becomes depressed or paranoid, or delusional, etc. I don't mean stand by and do nothing if there are constructive things to do, but don't stress out thinking you can prolong her life. My goal for my husband was always to do what I could to maintain the quality of his life. I think that is about all we can hope for with dementia.

Would your grandma like to live where her husband is? If not now, perhaps eventually as she fails more?

Blessings on you for doing your best for GM. It is a hard blow to accept that our best often can make only small differences. But they are differences worth making.
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I understand this problem. Mom will only get an MRI is she is fully sedated and unable to object...so basically No MRI. She will get a CT scan as they are less noisy and less confining. For most dreadful things, CT scans are enough. Mom was having severe headaches and we discovered a previously undiagnosed cervical deformity that now is pressing on nerves. Although the dr. wanted MRI the CT scan gave enough for treatment and diagnosis.

Bottom line is mom is scared they will find something bad. I try to convince her that they can rule bad stuff but that does not help much. She had a small stroke over a year ago. She does not remember that and will not discuss it. A "neurological problem" is ok but not a stroke...because there is so much fear associated with the term. She had an MRI to diagnose that but only because she was not able to object.

Years ago (about 12) she fell and broke her shoulder and hurt her knee. she refused to have the surgery for her shoulder. And the knee, which doctors have advised her to replace 12 years...she did not. Now her mobility is so limited and she could really use that knee now...but unfortunately she chose some of this.

So we do what we can and try and help our loved ones make the best choices we can. OK so we are not always successful but we need to support their involvement for as long as they are able.
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The only way I can see the MRI helping a lot is if it picks up on old strokes and makes them decide to try to treat to prevent further ones if that's not already being done, or the unlikely event of a tumor. Interpreting what any degree of atrophy might mean is nigh impossible - that's totally dependent on how someone is clinically - most people this age have some atophy. This all is very, very hard to face, for all of us...maybe if you know a bad storm is coming you could arrange for her to stay over with you or you with her, or maybe getting a generator set up would make a difference.
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I would have to agree with IsntEasy and the assessment given. Many of the others had very good comments. As you come to terms with your grandma's limited time here on earth, you will lose most of your apprehension of losing her to death. Just pray that Heaven will be gaining a lovely soul, one that no longer is frustrated by memory loss or any other kind of loss!! Will be praying for You!
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This may sound cold, but if you have investigated the side effects of the heart meds, and they include memory loss, I would talk to an open-minded doctor (some don't take side-effects seriously) and see if tapering back the heart meds would slow the memory loss. If it were me, I'd rather save my brain before my heart!
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By and large, if a very old person is acting like they have dementia, they have dementia and there is no cure for it. Testing for it is a waste of healthcare and an affront to your grandmother's dignity.
The drugs used to slow it down are of questionable value when the cause of the dementia is simply old age.
Also, trying to reason with a person who has dementia is a fool's errand. Insight is one of the first things that goes.
It sounds like you're arriving at this reality on your own. It's hard to see someone we love slowly fade. We should all die in our sleep after a healthy, happy life.
Try to enjoy your grandmother on her terms for the time she has left. That's the race against time you should be running, rather than racing to try to cure her.
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Most of us on this website understand all the frustrating and emotional heartbreak moments one has with a loved one who has dementia. If you think an MRI is going to help you "slow the progression" of dementia, you are incorrect. There is no magic pill, there is nothing you can do to stop its progression and you need to accept that fact. She probably does not want to be encased in a long tube for about 30 mins. having a brain MRI. I just had one done of my brain, so I know. Her symptoms are evident, but with winter's onset you need to prepare for the road's impasse. Get her over to your house in the event of a storm so she can eat and drink liquids. A person with dementia forgets to eat and drink and that leads to another host of health problems. This disease is slow. It takes years sometimes to get to another stage. If she is still "with it" she isn't that bad, yet. And I mean it will get worse. So prepare now for the inevitable because this is a terminal illness with no escape. I'll be praying for you and hope your mother makes her degree.
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Can't the doctors just give her the Montreal Cognitive Exam or whatever test they use? There's really no need for an MRI and many times they're given just because the patient has good insurance.

What difference does it make (to borrow a well-worn phrase) if you absolutely 'know'. It's usually obvious to those around her that she does have a some sort of dementia. You live around it, letting her believe she's okay. She knows she's not okay, but her pride is in the way. At some point, her executive functions will go, reasoning will be impossible, and the list goes on.

She's old. Let her be old and die a peaceful death without all the ridiculous testing they do today. There's nothing that can be done for this except perhaps control it with psychiatric medicines.

Forget it. Enjoy her as she is. Life is short. Nobody lives forever. We are all going to die. Quite frankly, I'm sorry my mom had open heart surgery at the age of 83 (anesthesia has been found to increase dementia); I'm sorry she had knee replacement surgery at the age of 86 (once again, anesthesia didn't help the memory) and I'm sorry she allowed the doctors to remove her nipple at the age of 86 because she had a lump that could have been cancerous. I mean, gees, how long would it have taken the cancer to spread? The recovery times for these surgeries (esp the open heart) were ridiculously long and painful for her. And it's when we started to see the signs of dementia.

While we all believe we are improving our longevity, what we're really doing is prolonging death. I like to say the doctors put them together in their eighties and start taking them apart in the 90s by having to remove medicines that are affecting the kidneys (which, btw, function at less than optimal levels by the time they reach that age. Plus they're on special diets that don't include the foods they love, which is ridiculous. At least let them be happy.

I thought I was doing wonderful, i.e., got her great medical care, gave her a better diet, etc., etc. only to watch her descend into further dementia along with loss of eyesight and hearing. It's the saddest thing I've ever seen. The body is great, the mind is gone. And the brain is the very organ that is us. When it's gone, we are but a shell.
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You said it yourself. Grandma is going to die. It could be tomorrow or not for another 15 years. In the meantime treaure each day you have with her. She will be happiest if people don't pressure her to do "things that are in her best interest" You just have to be there as a safety net not an enforcer.
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ba8alou, Thats what i've started to do over the past few days. I go out and help her with what i can, and go and give updates to grandpa (he is in the nursing home). I'm getting to that point where i know i can only do so much. I'm trying not to worry about everything so much.. but that is sooo much easier said than done. At this point I think all i can do is do what i can and keep everyone updated. I don't want to see her memory slipping from her, but i cannot force her to do anything about it. Grandpa wants her to get the MRI, but also says that he cannot force her to do anything. My husband and i have recently had a very long talk about everything (after i had posted this question). He has helped me realize that much of what i struggle with is letting go and accepting what that means. Grandma is 86, she is going to die sooner than later, and i need to accept that instead of desperately trying to cling on to what is left of her life. Its hard though. She is the last greatgrandparent to my children. They love her, and she is a part of their day to day lives. It will be a hard lesson on the reality of life when she is not here.
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Chris, I understand how upsetting this is, but you can only help as much as you're allowed to. If grandpa is the one who is in charge, perhaps give him some information about dementia and the medications that can slow it. Talk to HIM about finding her a doctor who specializes in this aging/dementia stuff. Your grandma would not want you to kill yourself caring for her. Perhaps step back a bit and let everyone see where the chips fall. If grandpa is the main caregiver and decision maker, he'll see things more clearly.
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Christenejara I can imagine how upset and stressed you are over your grandmother's situation. My grandmother was the one person in the world I ever felt loved me unconditionally and when she died (I was 21) I was lost. You're learning at a fairly young age that you don't control the universe and are at the mercy of others' decisions. How old is your grandmother? She has a right to live her life the way she wants to, whether you agree with that or not.

I agree with the other posters - a doctor who would advise you to point out your grandmother's memory lapses to her is not a very good doctor. My mom has severe short-term memory loss at 94. But we've never had an MRI done on her and she's doing just fine. So I don't believe an MRI is a necessary thing for good treatment of your grandmother. If you come at her from a more accepting place instead of an accusing place (you forgot this and your forgot that and you need an MRI so we can prove to you that your brain is broken), you may find your grandmother will be more open about her fears and loss of memory. My mom is very open with me because I tell her that her memory loss is probably caused by the medications she takes for her heart and there's nothing she or I can do about that. We laugh about it, because that's all we can do.

So step back, relax and know that you CANNOT control this situation. You can only control how you react and being stressed and making yourself sick with worry won't help you or your grandmother. Hugs to you!
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To everyone else, my mom DOES know what is going on, so do all her brothers. I'm not going to tell my mom how stress I am about any of this. If she leaves college, she looses her funding. She should be done in about a year or so. I cannot get a second opinion. At this point in time, i do not have medical POA. Grandpa and Grandma were going to give me a limited medical POA to help with grandma's appt, but then some of my uncles tried to get full POA and pissed grandpa off and now he is hesitant about any form of POA.
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countrymouse, she was in the nursing home after she had a bad uti. She thought she had a uti and told her endocronologist while at her diabeties checkup, they did a test, said it was negative... a month later I found her stuck in the bathroom, very confused, really hight blood sugar... she spend 3 days in the hospital, then came home, but we couldn't keep her blood sugar under control and she was still very confused. Since i could not give her 24 hour care at that point her endocrinologist told us she had to be in the nursing home till her sugars were stable again. took about 3 weeks.. not that they are stable now.. but not much i can do about it.
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Christene, I agree with everyone's comments written before me. Get a second opinion from a doctor who knows something about old people and dementia first off. If your grandma is in denial about how bad her memory is getting, she certainly wouldn't want confirmation to that fact with an MRI. My mother-in-law has Alz. and she NEVER had an MRI. The doctor gave her a series of memory type questions to test her, and of course she flunked big time. That and along with other behavior issues he diagnosed her with at that time early stages of Alzheimer's. Not sure if an actual shrunken brain image is necessary truthfully. Again, second opinion I think. Also, be sure and get your mother involved. She has the right to know what's going on etc. If mom waited all this time to get herself into something she feels good about, she can get back to it when this grandma thing is settled. Mom is a big girl, so let her act like it.
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The doctor is telling you to be firm with her and point out to her when she forgets things? I think I'd be looking for a different doctor.
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"Back" in the Nursing Home?

What happened that time?
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Christine first I would ask what are they going to do with the results of an MRI. if they want to confirm dementia by the size of her brain they can give meds to slow the progression down but they can do that just with clinical expertise. If she has a brain tumor which is probably unlikely would she agree and you want her to go through surgery. Could she tolerate that? Many if not most people are terrified of having an MRI myself included till they have one. yes you have to lie still and are pushed into this long tube and it is extremely noisy but you are given ear plugs. Mild sedation is offered usually Valium. I do think you should discuss this with your Mom she is equally responsible and has the right to know and she have made herself involved anyway. The bottom line is you can npot MAKE another person do anything but as the above poster said bring grandma's memory lapses to her attention so she has a part in any decision making. try and make sure she is doing the essentials like bill paying, bathing and eating. you can help with laundry housework and shopping etc especially during the bad weather. Make sure she has enough supplies in the house for at least a week. It's a hard road ahead but seek help before it is too late.
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I understand the being overwhelmed, frustrated and heartbroken. Right now my Dad is dying before my eyes, fever, swallow breathing, purple mottled feet. I could panic and call an ambulance, but that isn't what he wants. He wants to die in his bed, on his terms. That is the greatest gift of love I can give him. Instead I sit here crying and try to help you with what I have learned on my three year journey of caregiving.

If we had a magic wand, we would wave it , and our loved ones would be better. Doctors want to cure, they feel helpless at decline and death. They will have your grandma taking tests till her last breath. You have to accept that you can't slow down or stop the decline to death. When you accept that your loved one will decline and die, you will make the move from cure to care. When you come to acceptance, life becomes easier, you stop taking on impossible burdens, and you enjoy the time you have left. . Listen to what your grandma wants. Give her that dignity.

Can you move her to your home, or move in with her for the winter? Your mother needs to be a part of this decision. I made the mistake at underestimating how strong and resilient my Dad is,and had many hours of needless worry till I trusted him.

Burnout is a real problem. Make the suggestion to get the MRI, then let it go. Life is messy, and you can't control outcomes. Caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint. You will never make it to the end, if you can't learn to let go, and let God. Finally trust your gut. Good luck honey. You are doing an impossible job, well. I am proud of you for stepping up. We are here for you.
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