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Since about 2 months ago she's rapidly developed aphasia, and can't remember details like my brother's phone number or the year she was born now. It's awful to watch her turn from a vigorous self-sufficient geriatric to a frail, quiet, elderly little lady. She's now forgetting to take her meds every day--we have to call her to remind her. Her memory up to this point had been terrific (she's just turned 88). She also was able to drive till just a few weeks ago. She's also become very weak and has been put on 24/7 02. Her aphasia and short-term memory gets worse every week, it feels. She's had strokes, has been evaluated and sees her neurologist regularly. Her last MRI showed she had another small stroke since her first big ones from Dec 16 (that interestly did not seem to cause any physiological changes at all).

We are moving her to assisted living soon and she's happy to go since she lives alone although we all live in the same town (mom/sibs/me). My sister says it's dementia and I'm not sure that is what it is. She forgets she's called me to ask me to help her change her 02 portable tanks, etc but she remembers names and things from long ago. Help?

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PS I just reviewed vascular dementia symptoms on the Mayo Clinic website. My mom really only has one--rapid memory loss. Her physical ailments are rapid overall weakness, extreme fatigue, and inability to work her right hand from time to time. But as for judgment, understanding, analysis, etc--she's good there. I also think she's have TIAs--for a few min two weeks ago she slurred her speech, but could roll her tongue, smile, lift her arms above her head, etc. I called EMS but within a min she could speak normally and could do everything else, even answer all their questions! She refused to be transported, and I supported her decision. She's pretty much done with being "studied" by medical folks.
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The problem about a definitive dx is that mom says "no more tests", and we support her on that .She's refused all MRIs from now on (she's already had at least 3 from her first strokes Dec 16 to last month). She is so tired of getting stuck by needles and it's frustrating for her to try to take memory tests. She had to take one to be evaluated for her assisted living entrance, and it was pretty awful to watch her struggle to remember everyday things that up to about 3 months ago, she recalled with no problem. It must be 100x more horrible for her. I knew eventually my mom would pass--she's 87, nearly 88, and had a great healthy life up till now, but I have to say I never saw this particular problem coming. I expected she would simply get sick, but still have all mental faculties, and just leave us. So much for expectations. I don't know why I'm so resistant to use the word "dementia". It seems like such a pejorative label and my sister seems to relish using it. Question: what kinds of questions should I ask the neurologist when we see him end of this month? I know mom will not agree to any more tests, even blood tests, most likely, so I'm limited to questions to find out if indeed it might be (I'm okay with a "probably/most likely" answer from the neurologist at this point). Any advice would be greatly appreciated, since I'm feeling my way through the dark (and boy is it dark) here at present. Thank you!
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I might add that once your mom arrives in AL, I'd give her time to settle in. I'd have patience because, if she does have dementia, her assessment of how things are might not be on point. I'd be sure to observe things carefully, talk with staff, confirm what you are told, etc. I'd read a lot about dementia, so you will know what to look for, if that is what she has. Hopefully, it will be a smooth transition and work out beautifully. My LO felt more comfortable once she got settled into AL, because she was getting confused a lot and afraid to be alone. Still, she would ask to return home, because she forgot how things were scary for her alone at home.
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Thank you all so much. No doc has actually said "it's dementia" and it annoys me that my sister has dx mom without medical support. She will see her neurologist soon I think--end of this month--so I'll try to be at that appt with mom and sis. Thanks for the tips about the bed, freqflyer. Any other tips to help mom settle more easily?
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riverchica, yes good choice moving Mom to Assisted Living. My Dad was in Assisted Living/Memory Care and he really enjoyed the place. He liked the idea he got to eat all his meals with his 3 new male friends. There was a good routine for him.

As for it being dementia or just normal forgetfulness of aging is hard to know. Sometimes we over think things are wrong when it is just normal aging.

Now that I am 71, I find I can't remember names... oh well, heck I was never good at remembering names back in my 20's or 30's, so no biggee there. Oh how I wish we had telephone numbers the way they were back when I was growing up, example HOward 6-5555. So easy to remember. Yet, I am a walking GPS.

Oh, when Mom moves into Assisted Living, set up her bed room similar to what she now has at home. That way when she awakes in the middle of the night, it isn't that fear of where is she. Keep the same bedspread. Have the night table on the same side of the bed. My Dad always had his highboy dresser to the left of his bed, and luckily I was able to do that in Independent Living and in Assisted Living. Plus the same night stand and lamp.
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From eMedicineHealth:

"People who have had a stroke have a 9 times greater risk of dementia than people who have not had a stroke. About 1 in 4 people who have a stroke develop signs of dementia within 1 year."

The neurologist is the person most likely to diagnose dementia -- probably vascular dementia. Most dementia diagnoses are tentative, especially at first. They range from "this might be dementia" to "I'm pretty sure this is dementia." There really aren't good biomarkers to look at -- no way to tell from a blood test or spinal tap, etc. As the disease progresses the diagnosis becomes more certain. The only 100% sure diagnosis is one made after death by examining the brain. More sophisticated scans are being developed to look at the living brain in more detail.

I am so glad that she will be going where there will be supervision and help available 24 hours a day! That she is looking forward to it is a big bonus! In AL (or NH, if it comes to that) she will have opportunity to participate in activities, interact with staff and other residents, and completely relax about her health. She won't have to remember her own pills, for example. Her meals will be regular and she can eat in a dining room with other residents. Even if whatever she has turns out not to be dementia, this is a good environment for her.

Do come back and let us know how this goes.
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Has the doctor told your sister that your mom has dementia? The memory problems you describe can come from different things, including dementia. The doctor can examine her, gather history, and conduct tests to help make that determination. Sometimes, the person may have a vitamin deficiency or other ailment. With my LO, she had multiple strokes, which were confirmed with an MRI. With that and other tests, she was diagnosed with Vascular Dementia, which caused her short term memory to go really quickly.

If it is dementia, she won't likely be able to call and ask for help. She may not realize she needs the oxygen or she may forget your number or even how to dial a phone. I've seen that happen. Other times, the person calls over and over, since they forget they already made the call. I hope you can get some answers. It's a tough thing to deal with. This site is a good resource though. It can give you some good support and tips for a family member of someone who is declining.
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