My mom is 63 years old and lives in an independent living community. She moved there with my father about 3 years ago. My father passed away in December 2018 and my mom, I believe is struggling with the loss. She says otherwise and I've gotten her counseling but she is hesitant to continue because she says she is fine. She is now dealing with hair loss and excessively washing her hair because she thinks there are bugs. I've taken her to the doctor and there are no bugs. She also calls me every day about 4-5 times a day. I don't necessarily have a problem with this but It makes me concerned for her. Other than the bugs she is normal, we've always been close and talking on the phone everyday is not new. It is now the amount of times she calls that concerns me. I know she is lonely. I visit her often as well.

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I'm 63 myself. Your mother sounds like she has too many issues for her age, and there's more here than meets the eye, frankly. Incontinence at 63 is due to what, exactly? If I was wearing Depends now, I'd be at the doctor wanting to know WHY and what I could do to fix whatever problem was causing me to need to wear incontinence products at 63, trust me.

Insisting there are bugs in her hair & washing it to the degree that she's losing it, to me, indicates the possibility of dementia or Alzheimer's setting in. 63 is NOT too young for such a diagnosis to be made, in reality. Incontinence is another symptom of dementia/ALZ as well.

When your mother calls you 4-5x a day, what is she saying? Do you notice memory issues? Is she having any trouble with time or confusion with dates/days of the week? Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) can also include the following symptoms:

Irritability and aggression.
Anxiety (which could be the bugs in her hair scenario)

It sounds like she needs a full medical exam and to be tested for cognitive impairment. Also for the incontinence issue to be addressed. Once you know how she's doing physically, you can address how she's doing mentally/emotionally.

It's quite common for people to deny that they are suffering in any way, whether it be from depression or grief or memory loss or illness/emotional discomfort of some kind. The natural response is defensiveness. "Oh I'm fine, I don't need help, pfffft." Meanwhile, she's losing her hair and calling you multiple times a day. There seems to be more at play here than just being lonely; she may be frightened as well, wondering what is happening to her but not knowing how to reach out, or being too scared to hear a diagnosis she doesn't want to deal with. What, by the way, did her counselor have to say about her 'being fine'? Was there any advice imparted on that end, or were you not privy to it?

Once you find out where she stands medically, THEN you can talk about hobbies or socializing and putting herself out there to make new friends, etc. Volunteering is a superb way for a lonely person to get out of her own head and giving back to others. When a woman loses a long term husband, she can sometimes feel useless, like her purpose in life has vanished. What better thing to do than volunteer at a children's hospital, for instance, to give your mother her sense of purpose back. Reading to a child who's gone bald due to cancer suddenly makes your mother feel less sorry for herself and a whole lot more vital and useful as a human being. Amazing what giving back to society can do for a person.

But not till she's seen by a doctor, evaluated, and you know what's going on with her medically. Wishing you the best of luck getting to the root of your mom's distress.
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Llamalover47 Feb 2021
lealonnie1: Stellar response!
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You don't mention if you live local to your mom. Even if you don't I think her behavior warrants a physical exam by her doctor. She may be exhibiting symptoms of a UTI, especially if this behavior seems like a sudden change. UTIs in the elderly are extremely common and frequent (often not completely related to hygiene) and often have no other symptoms than personality, behavior or cognitive changes. She is probably not even experiencing pain when urinating (yet) or is cognizant of any urgency. This can be cleared up with antibiotics.

Then her hand-washing due to "bugs"...this does not seem like the typical OCD behavior because she is thinking or seeing bugs. Typical OCD is driven by mental/inner messages, not because they are imagining bugs. Is your mom on any medication? It is possible she may be over- or under-dosing. Doc also needs to verify this.

It is possible that your dad was "covering" for your mom's deficits or decline and you are now seeing it for what it is. Again, there are many possibilities and you will need to sleuth it out and NOT take her word for it -- this requires a visit of at least a week (if you are not local).

If you don't live close to her I think you or a trusted family member (and preferably someone with her medical PoA) take her to the doctor and figure out what is going on. It may be more than grief. She is too young to have dementia. I wish you all the best as you begin to help her and peace in your heart.
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“When you don’t know what to do, do what you know to do” is my motto. Have you sat down with her and asked her? Sometimes letting someone share helps them arrive at their own answers and allows you to hear their heart. When my Mom passed after a very long and difficult illness, My Dad took it very hard and suffered with empty days, grief and loneliness. I visited him often and spoke to him daily but I could see he was struggling emotionally. Although he was very independent and said he could handle it, I realized that he needed support and socialization. I spoke to a wonderful social worker who suggested a local senior program whose objective was to keep Seniors out of nursing homes and help them live independent thriving lives.
At first my Dad was totally against it saying he didn’t need “old people services!” Lol, Love my Dad!! He was an 86 year old youngster and I respected this. I shared that there are many others who could benefit from his outgoing personality and he would meet new friends. I saw the spark in his eye and he finally agreed to “visit”. He immediately saw the camaraderie available snd after a few visits he was excited to join!
My heart rejoiced that God had opened a door of opportunity for him to have hope and joy back in his life again. My Dad beamed when I would see him at the center snd introduce me to all his new friends. What joy I had! The center was walking distance from where I worked full time allowing me to visit him often. He would attend a few hours 3 times a week where they picked him up in the morning then transported him home after activities, exercise, socialization and lunch. I am so grateful to this center who was an answered prayer and became family to both of us until he passed 3 years later.
My Dad flourished during this time and the peace that I had was immeasurable!
Sometimes just taking the time to listen with the heart, pray and use the resources available are what it takes to change the quality of life for our loved ones no matter what their age!
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WendyElaine Feb 2021
What a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing this.
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I think the bugs are a sign of things to come and so is the increase in contact. Both suggest early signs of dementia (to me) and I would try again to get an assessment done. Some types of dementia are really helped with early treatment which can delay the onset and calm anxiety.
If you weren't talking about delusional thinking then I suppose the phone calls could be put down to loneliness but from my experience several calls a day is also a sign.

Good luck!
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I read your profile and what you wrote about your mother's issues which surprised me for someone who is only 63. You wrote age related decline... which at 63 is unusual. You also wrote, Incontinence, diabetes, anxiety and depression were issues. When was the last time she had a medical exam? She should be reevaluated and perhaps medication could help with her anxiety and depression. Even if she is currently on meds, patients sometimes need those changed as they become less effective. I agree with others here who say that she should be evaluated for dementia. She is very young to be in such decline and something isn’t right. If she is a diabetic this often is implicated in dementia as well, does she follow a proper diet, does she have her numbers checked. What is her A1C? lastly do you have medical POA for her? If not, you need to get it.

You state she lives in an independent living community. Most of them have lots of activities to participate in, is she doing so? You could talk to the activity director to personally invite her to some of them to get her involved. You could go with her if you live near and it’s on a day you can attend. I used to go with my dad to things sometimes.
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Grandma1954 Feb 2021
My Husband was diagnosed with dementia (Alzheimer's) at about 63. Not unusual. Earliest onset that I have heard of was 35.
I am 66. I am dealing with medical issues that I was born with. My kids don't live close now. I just moved over 2 hours away from my daughter. When I was closer I would see her about an hour and a half every 5 weeks. She was "busy". I just moved where I could be more active socially.
I don't call my 2 every day. They wouldn't answer. When I had major surgery I didn't hear from my daughter for 2 days. When my new Dr. asked if he would get to meet the kids. My daughter said, "Are you trying to guilt trip me?" My son said, "Is there something wrong with you we don't know about? Why would we ever go to a Dr. with you."
I have an emotional support dog. He himself has been through a lot. I have several hobbies. I can't get to the places I need to get things from and often delivery services I use have proven to be inaccurate.
I often feel lack of support and frustrated that many of the "solutions" I have come with are charging more that I can afford, unreliable, or I don't qualify for.
I am not looking for boyfriend girlfriend relationship. I do not want to listen to the TV all day.
I have worked in nursing homes as an activities coordinator. The mental health issues we were taught were
1) isolation
2) lack of choices
3) when people want to visit they will do so on their schedule. It almost feels like a toy on a shelf that gets taken down-played with and when you are tired of it you put it back on the shelf.
Boredom is a terrible thing at any age. Then sometimes not understanding that the other person doesn't have the time or just doesn't make the time is difficult to understand Especially if you are bored.
Even as a person who has more activities and enjoyment in life than most of those around me this covid issue, lack of reliable transportation and no one to just sit around and talk about the issues I am facing as a senior is driving me a little nuts. I have discussed this with others and without being in a nursing home situation a person deals with income limitations most of the time. People who own their own home have repairs not saved for. People who want to live in an apartment- well that's another story. I have lived in what was supposed to be great housing. I have dealt with illegal landlords, disrespectful neighbors and places that I like where all of a sudden the rent goes up and I can't afford to stay.
I have sought professional help several times. I have talked with the area council on aging in several states. I have not found an answer yet.
So my point is (after all this rambling) is adjusting to life changes are different for all ages. As a senior we realize that ours are not the 16 year olds we can change the world attitude. I know I am very active in peoples lives my self. But, my personal choices are becoming more limited and there options to solve my issues are not as reliable as I would like. I seem to be frustrated over this at the time.
I wonder if this is what your mother is exhibiting in her own way. I wonder if you have the time to set up a couple of "Hey Mom" times a month of let's just do something fun time or I will come over and fix it time that is non-judgemental would help.
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Lovebug37 Feb 2021
Thank you so much for sharing. I tend to see my mom 1-2 time a week and often pick her up or take her to the store or doctor appointments when I can. I have two sisters that often visit her as well but she still find it hard that we can't see her more although we see her weekly. I agree that she is having a hard time adjusting to being alone even when we visit. She is use to a full household, she had six children (big family) she struggled with empty nesting since my baby sister moved out about five years before my dad passed. After my sister moved out is when they moved to the independent living community she is currently still in. I think a change of location may also help. She move there with her husband but now he is gone. We've gotten her into a new apartment there but it is still the same community.
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One thought that came to me is she is still grieving and with the social distancing, closing of community groups, restaurants, movie theaters and all the rest of the things that we would do when we got together with friends.
This makes the isolation even worse.
If everything checks out health wise it may be possible that she needs something to do, something to give her purpose. I think continuing with counseling is a good idea. If there is a place where she can volunteer or better yet if she can get a part time job (keeping safety in mind) that might make her feel better.
My Husband died in 2016 and if I did not have my Volunteer activities and friends that I bolster and they bolster me I would go crazy. I do have my daughter (step daughter actually..but I hate that "step" term) and grand kids that I am with a lot.
All that activity helps tremendously.
She might even want to take a course or two at the local community college. Many can be done on line.
(by the way get thyroid checked out and vitamin D)
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Your mom seems really young not to have any health issues and living in a senior community.  I am still working with folks her husband is 67 and still working full time. Was your father a lot older than your mom? She is probably not going to meet anyone her own age in a community like that.   Too much time on your hands when you're still young and healthy is not a good thing.  I have not read all of the postings below so if there is information I am missing, I apologize.

She needs a purpose...Suggest that she volunteer or get a part time job.  Join a yoga or stretching class at the gym.   Help her look on line to see if there is a group of ladies that walk every morning or something along those lines.  Book clubs are very popular for all age groups. Does she have any friends?  I know things are a bit crazy right now with covid, but she needs to stay active and engaged with people while she still can.  You can't be her sole source of connection to the outside world. 

I have to tell you that the "bugs in the hair" bothers me.  I feel like there might be other issues going on.  Taking her to a doctor who specializes in "healthy brain" issues might be a good start.

Good Luck LoveBug
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whaleyf Feb 2021
I live in a senior community. 63 is not too young. Senior community doesn't mean "nursing home". It just means people (usually over 55) can live there.
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This sounds like formication. It is generally a nerve issue, it can also be a medication side affect. Please have mom checked out.
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63 is very young (says this 60 year-old)! She has to find ways to become active in some way from, as others have suggested, walks to doing something to occupy her mind. I'm taking classes online, volunteering (virtually), doing some work (virtually) for my last job, reading, walking. What are her hobbies or interests? Yes, it is a bummer that I can't socialize in person but I talk to my friends frequently. We have video chats and cocktail hours, etc. Does she have friends in similar situations? Does she drive? Sometimes when I just need to see something other than my home, I take a drive somewhere. I do feel annoyed at the inability to visit and see friends but I keep very occupied. Hopefully, in a few months, we can start to do more things in person, but in the meantime, I'm finding plenty to fill my days.

I can't speak to the feeling of bugs and agree that her doctor should assess the reason for these symptoms.
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