How do I know if mom has dementia? My therapist thinks she does because of her outbursts and memory lapses.

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My mom is 81 yrs old and has no short term memory. I will tell her how to do something and 5 minutes later she forgets. She manages her own meds and is able to stick to a routine and has a good mind, slometimes I think it's better than mine. lol..

I see a therapist because of her personality disorder and her abuse but he thinks she has dementia based on what I've shared with him. Does abusive behavior and poor memory indicate dementia?

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It does sound like your Mom may have some form of dementia. If she hasn't seen a neurologist you need to get her in to see one! He can run tests, evaluate her, etc. to make a positive diagnosis.

You mentioned your Mom manages her own meds. What type of meds does she take? How long has she taken each of them? In many cases, certain medications can cause side effects that mimic dementia; or there can be conflicts between meds that cause such symptoms, including confusion and short term memory loss. You might check with her doctor on this also!
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So much of what happens in dementia is an intensification of pre-existing quirks, anomalies, personality disorders, etc. that sometimes it hard to see when they "cross over the line" into dementia. Yet another reason to get an objective outsider with expertise in dementia to evaluate. But, on the other side, if the diagnosis doesn't alter the treatment -- what good is it?
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I noticed my Mom repeating herself all the time. Another symptom was how she kept stacking mail and other papers around her apartment. It started with small stacks of junk mail, later graduating to everything from magazines to boxes of cosmetic samples. She'd call me at work several times a day and didn't recalls any of the previous calls she'd made. She also became very aggressive, punching and scratching.

I finally got her in to see a GP who asked her some simple questions, such as: "Who is president of the United States?" She did not remember, nor did she know what day of the week it was. He asked her to draw the face of a clock. The drawing was confused, numbers in the wrong places. He said she was definitely suffering from some form of cognitive impairment, and wanted to have her admitted for evaluation. She refused. It took two years to get her into the hospital for testing and diagnosis.

So if your Mom seems to be forgetting basic things; if she starts repeating herself; if she's hording stuff; dressing in unusual outfits; seems depressed and withdrawn; calls you numerous times throughout the day, and doesn't recall that she'd already phoned you -- fight tooth and nail to get her to a doctor who can properly diagnose her. Many hospitals have great dementia programs staffed by doctors who specialize in cognitive decline.

Listen to your gut!!!!! If your Mom's actions establish a pattern of behavior that you feel is related to memory loss, find a way to get her the help she needs. The earlier the diagnosis, the better.
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I asked our doc to give me a list of my husbands meds, what they are for, etc. If your mom has dementia, and it sounds as tho that could be the case - I would question her being able to manage her meds. The list also helps in the ER etc. should she need it.
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smitty - familiarize yourself with dementia by reading a selection of posts on this site or go to Alzheimers.org too. I'm pretty sure no one here who reads your post would think that your mom did NOT have some form of dementia.

Once you have read enough or been exposed enough, you can almost diagnosis the dementia yourself, just buy the behavior, but you can't diagnose the cause.

Some forms have medical causes that can be corrected, so when you see the signs, it's really important to get the person into the doctor in case the memory loss or confusion can be reversed.

Waiting to figure it out could be a ticking time bomb for her, where what happened would not be able to be reversed if it goes on too long.

DOCTOR! ASAP!!
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People with dementia can demonstrate aggressive behaviors because their brain is not making the correct chemical connections. Have her tested by a neurologist or neuropsychiatrist and be sure. Sounds like it to me.
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Have your mom see a geriatric doctor if she doesn't already. Or schedule an appt with a neurologist. As someone else already pointed out, there are some simple, non-invasive tests used to diagnose dementia. We have just gone through this with my dad. He has always been very difficult to live with as well as abusive. I'm sure he has some sort of undiag nosed personality disorder, but no one could have EVER even suggested that there was something wrong with him and that he should see a dr. So, we lived a hard life. Now he is 84, and mellowed some, but still difficult. This past winter we noticed some changes in his physical and mental condition. It was hard to tell if he was really just dad being dad or if it were something that should be checked in to. He had several hospitalizations for various physical ailments. We talked to the doctors and they told us that dementia can magnify previous behaviors...that is what we were seeing. To cut this long story short, he is now on some different meds which have really helped him and he is much easier to be around. He just told us he is happy with his life now. This man has never been easy or happy, so this has been a good thing for all of us!

Have your mom seen by a geriatric dr. Or neurologist. Good luck.
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Neuro-psychiatric eval asap. It definitely sounds like some form of dementia. She may seem to be fine with her meds what you said in your earlier post she was on vicodin and fentanyl & the PRN didn't want to prescribe the pain meds for fear she would overdose. She ALREADY needs to have medication management. Her abusive nature will very strongly object to your assistance. If you don't already financial and medical POAs that flow through into incompetency, you will have to pursue a guardianship unless you can reason with her and get her cooperation. Please be aware that it is very difficult to reason with a dementia patient.
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Smitty, I just looked at the activity on your profile and see your mother is a passive aggressive NPD. That would explain the abusive behavior that may become worse if your mother does have dementia. I don't know this for sure, because some people with dementia can become nicer from what I've seen.
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Is your mother's doctor a geriatric specialist? If so, there are a couple of tests that are routinely used. The first one is short -- remembering three objects and drawing a clock set at a certain time. For many people, this is a test they can pass easily, even if they have significant dementia. The second test is a bit longer and includes counting backwards, spatial and time orientation, and remembering more objects. This test takes about 15 minutes and is much better at showing dementia. There is a much longer test that requires a day that is even better. I personally wouldn't want to take this test. It would wear me out.

I have a feeling the people who are around a person with dementia know it long before anyone else. We know how the person acted before dementia, and we see the confusion, loss of ability to think logically and perform tasks, and the frequent lapses of memory. I have a feeling that if we think our loved one has dementia, they probably do. Being around the person is pretty much the same as giving them a super long test.

Abusive behavior can be part of dementia, but I have a feeling that if your mother has a personality disorder, the abuse may have been present earlier in her life. What type of personality disorder does she have?
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