How do you know when it's just old age memory loss or early signs of dementia?

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Alzheimer's and dementia runs in the family. I am the caregiver to my 87 year old godmother who has been like my mom my whole life since my own mother had mental illness problems. Since we all moved to FL last November, she has gone down hill very quickly, with toileting, she wears depends and pads, but most of the time when I take her to the bathroom she is already wet, but yet there are times she gets up and goes on her own and does fine. She is also falling more ofter, 2 times in the last 2 months. She uses a walker, but she loses her balance. I am afraid when she has to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and since her last fall I have gotten a baby monitor. She sometimes is up 2-3 times a night and I am losing sleep and when she does fall, she does not remember she has the First Alert button to even press it. The company has just sent me the new one that is suppose to detect falls, but they told me it always does not work. When I go to check on her and help her to the bathroom, she stares at me as if she does not know who I am, then a few minutes later she will say "Is that you Deb". Then there are other times she seems more alert. She cannot be left alone at all any more, and my partner and I have not had any time away to just go have fun for almost a year! We are both going to be 60 soon and are disabled ourselves with bad back problems and we do have home health aides come to the house to bathe and dress her for 2 hrs in the morning. I was also advised to purchase bed rails for her craftmatic bed, but I am afraid she will try to crawl out over them! I have asked her not to get out of bed and call out my name and I will come and help her, but she only did that for 2 nights and stopped. When I asked her why she did not call me, she said she forgot.

Do you think taking her to an adult day care 1-2 times a week would help her to get out around people her own age? I am also looking for respite care so my boyfriend and I can go out on a date or maybe even go away for a weekend!

Her father had dementia, and her younger brother just dies of Alzheimer's just after we moved to FL. I was a nurse and worked in a nursing home when I was younger, that is how I hurt my back. I also worked for the ARC, so I am aware of working with the elderly. But this is getting difficult when doing it 24/7. Any suggestions would be very grateful and helpful!

Thank you!

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A doctor who focuses on geriatric medicine might prove helpful. They are likely to recognize her condition and can recommend what level of care she night need. That can help select a place that would be the best fit for her, keeping the future in mind. In my state, a physician must complete a form that is used by the facility for admission.
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Debbie, you being a nurse you probably worked one shift.... now you are working all three shifts and that will cause major burnt out. And as you know with dementia it is not going to get better, instead going to get worse, much worse :(

Sadly, one out of every 3 Caregiver dies leaving behind the patient they were caring. What would your Godmother do then?

I strong suggest you visit some of the nearby nursing homes to see which one would be the best fit for your Godmother. That way she can still make new friends, get to know the staff, and learn her way around the facility. Then you and your sig other will have QUALITY time when you visit her.

I am not hands-on physical care for my elderly parents as they still live alone in their single family home [their choice], but we do all their driving, and that's been a lot of miles. During the past 6 years my sig other and I did go away for one weekend which didn't turn out well as he and I were constantly worried about my parents as Dad would fall frequently [if my parents were in a retirement community that would take some of the worry burden off me as help would be right outside their door].
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Debbie, I ordered a bed pad off the internet , for my spouse. You put it under the sheet and plug it in at night. If her body weight comes off the pad, the alarm will sound . This normally gave me enough time to reach his bed, before he fell in the floor. You can also get the pad , from medical supply stores. Hope this helps.
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Oh, I would also add that when you visit facilities, I would ask questions about how their facility handles issues. For example, falling, forgetting to eat, wandering in the night, etc. If it's not a Memory Care facility, most assisted living places that I've spoken with aren't equipped to handle that.

I would also research bed rails. I discovered that they are illegal in my state for most places. It turns out they cause more injuries than you might think and that's why they are prohibited here in many places. People get entrapped in them and suffer injury or worse.
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Are you her power of attorney and/or health care power of attorney? This is could be very important when it comes to acting on her behalf. If you don't have it, then acting on her behalf might prove difficult, especially if she is resistant or keeps forgetting what the plans for care are. And, having her execute one now, might be challenging, since her competence might be challenged. You might consult with an elder law attorney if you don't have a POA yet.

It sounds like you are doing so much right now to safeguard her. I think I might get her diagnosed by a doctor. They may first test for a urinary tract infection to rule that out. It can cause some off behavior too. But if that is not the case, normally, a primary doctor can do certain tests in the office by asking questions, taking history and getting info from you. Then they may refer you to a neurologist to see what is causing the problem. My cousin's mentioned strokes, tumors, Alzheimers, etc.

With my cousin, the neurologist confirmed the primary doctor's diagnosis of dementia, but he gave a list of things that could be causing it. They will likely require an MRI after that to get a more definite cause.

You might start looking in your area for places that are equipped to handle residents like your godmother. I would read posts on this site to find out what you might expect to happen down the road and I would read other sites about Alzheimers/Dementia. With that information, you might be better equipped to select a setting that can meet her needs, both now and as her condition progresses. The time line for that varies, but her doctors might be able to give you more information on her condition.
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You take her to see a doctor who specializes in diagnosing dementia; a geriatrician, a geriatric neurologist perhaps if you have one in the area. Is there a large rehab center near you? they often have diagnosiic centers that do neurological/neuropsych workups on folks with memory loss. Yes, Daycare will give you some time during the day to get chores and errands done and socialization will help her; does she have funds that you can use to pay for respite? Respite is not a luxury; it's a necessity if you want to be able to care for her long term.
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