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My husband and I live with and care for his 91-year-old mother, who is suffering from some dementia, though she is still fairly high-functioning. She also had her disabled daughter pass away last spring, so I imagine grief is possibly magnifying it. She has been exhibiting some behaviors that I would call OCD.


1) She obsessively picks at her scalp to the point where all her hair has been pulled out.


2) She cooks and cooks and cooks. Not in any normal way, but HUGE amounts, far more than the household can eat, and often with strange amounts of ingredients: two sticks of butter in a small pan of fish, 10 bay leaves in an 8x8 pan of corn/celery/onions. So she puts it in the fridge, then the freezer, then the garbage. There are other non-cooking kitchen projects too, such as filling numerous large containers with filtered water from the Culligan tap and leaving them on the counter.


No amount of reasoning with her seems to work. She will verbally agree with what we're saying, but can't seem to stop the behavior. On the cooking, this one is getting expensive, plus she's already hurt herself a couple of times (a minor knife cut to the thumb; cuts to her foot from dropping a bottle of olive oil on it, etc.). She's also caused a dreadful flood in the kitchen by plugging up the sink and running the water, then walking away and forgetting about it. We took pictures so we can occasionally refresh her memory about that one.


Anyway, I'm just wondering if anyone else has had similar experience with their elderly loved one. And what has worked in dealing with or modifying their behavior? So far, we have hidden all knives and drain plugs... ;-) But talking to her about our concerns only seems to produce irritation.


TIA... Loads of blessings!

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Annie: You're welcome and God bless you.
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Reply to Llamalover47
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This bizarre behavior may be aided by an rx from her physician. And cut down on the grocery purchases as your $$ are going in the trash. One more OCD behavior I'll tell you about~I knew a young lady who had a hair pulling addiction. She got help BEFORE she went close to totally bald
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AuntieAuntie Jan 11, 2019
Thank you. Yes, we have been moving in that direction. We re-started a medication that had been helping and months ago was inexplicably eliminated from her line-up (we only found out recently) by the home health nurse who comes by each week. It does seem to take the edge off her agitation.
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When my father-in-law was living with us we turned our electric stove off at the breaker box when we were not at home. He had talked about cooking and it was easier to make it impossible than to try to reason through it and worry. We left his lunches prepared so that the caregiver who came mid-day just had to heat it in the microwave.

We also kept all kitchen knives stored in the back of a bottom cabinet, which while not convenient for us kept them out of his reach. He had talked about needing a knife or scissors to make his buttonholes larger since he wasn't able to button them. I also had to tape the temperature controls in the fridge in place since and labeled them do not touch. He had turned them all the way up or down a several times when he first moved in with us resulting in frozen produce or thawed frozen foods.

We made a bit of a thing out of me not wanting anyone to touch anything in my kitchen, which wasn't really a huge thing for me, but it was an easy therapeutic fib to keep him safe and us sane. It depends on whose house you're in though to make that fib work.

We also dealt with OCD and panic attacks. I don't recall now which meds were tried, but nothing really worked. What helped most was a fairly rigid routine. We left a large sheet of paper with the sequence of things that would happen each day - time to get up, breakfast, time that the caregiver would come, lunch, when we would get home, dinner, bedtime. That seemed to help. We would talk him through slow breathing to get through the panic attacks.

I wish you well. An old expression that often came to mind for me was that caregiving is a long row to hoe.
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AuntieAuntie Jan 9, 2019
Thank you for taking the time to give such a thoughtful reply. Yes, it's a little harder for us to "take control" of the kitchen, since it is her house. And whenever we challenge anything she's doing, she gets all indignant and says, "I like doing this. It's my house!" We have also tried signs and notes and, much like a little child, she will do even more of what she knows we don't like. As my husband pointed out, the roles are reversed now. Yes, and it's SO awkward!
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For a start how are all these ingredients for the cooking getting in the house. I would hope you might have some power over that. Has medication been considered for the other behaviors?
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AuntieAuntie Jan 8, 2019
Well she still has to eat and we do need food in the house. There are three of us living here. We are trying not to have to lock up all the food, etc., but realize it may come to that. Re: medication, we found out that she WAS taking Donepezil, but for whatever reason, her home health nurse had stopped it. The lady who comes in each day to assist her said it had helped when she was taking it before, so we immediately got a refill and got that back in the med box, as of last night. I think it has already taken the edge off her agitation.

Thank you for taking the time to respond. I feel less alone already. :-)
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Yes! My aunt with dementia used to scratch/pick her head continuously, compulsively, until she had a very large bald spot as a result. This started when her DH was dying, which took quite a while, unfortunately, and she had to watch the entire process. It sounds like your MIL is NOT fairly high-functioning at all, truthfully, given the things she's doing. Contact her doctor right away & let him/her know about the recent happenings, especially the scalp picking. The doc can likely prescribe a sedative or medication that would help her. Sadly, my cousin (the daughter of my aunt who compulsively picked her scalp) was dead set AGAINST medications of ANY kind, and preferred to watch her mother go through the horrific ordeal she DID instead of helping her out with medication.

Best of luck to you!!!
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AuntieAuntie Jan 8, 2019
To clarify, when I said "high-functioning" I was referring to how she's able to get up and do things, and how she's still able to have a conversation that seems normal. The doctor is and has been in the loop. She has home health care people (prescribed by her doctor) who come by the house regularly to check on her.

Re: medication, we found out that she WAS taking Donepezil, but for whatever reason, her home health nurse had stopped it. The lady who comes in each day to assist her said it had helped when she was taking it before, so we immediately got a refill and got that back in the med box, as of last night. I think it has already taken the edge off her agitation. I guess the next step would be some kind of sedative or tranquilizer if needed.

We also got her back in touch with a long-standing love of hers: jazz music. We got it playing from her phone on a bluetooth speaker and she seems to enjoy that.

Thank you for taking the time to respond. I feel less alone already. :-)
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It the Dementia. Talk to her doctor about anxiety medication. It may help.

You cannot reason with a person with Dementia. They have lost that ability. Also, the ability to process and comprehend. At this stage she should never be alone.
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Reply to JoAnn29
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AuntieAuntie Jan 8, 2019
Re: medication, we found out that she WAS taking Donepezil, but for whatever reason, her home health nurse had stopped it. The lady who comes in each day to assist her said it had helped when she was taking it before, so we immediately got a refill and got that back in the med box, as of last night. I think it has already taken the edge off her agitation.

We also got her back in touch with a long-standing love of hers: jazz music. We got it playing from her phone on a bluetooth speaker and she seems to enjoy that.

Thank you for taking the time to respond. I feel less alone already. :-)
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