MJGcaregiver Asked April 2014

Mom fell and is now scared of everything. Any advice?

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First a little background: My parents moved in with me 12 years ago when my father was in congestive heart failure and on the transplant list. 3 months after moving in he received his new heart and stayed in the hospital for 3 months. Since then has been relatively healthy we have had some scary times with pnuemonia and infections that have landed him in the hospital but surprisingly he has done very well. My mother has been his main caregiver and I have been here to support and help out. Now the tables have turned my mother was putting on her pajamas while standing up and lost her balance breaking both her hip and her wrist in January of this year. She has had surgery and had to stay in a rehab facility and then came home and had therapy and was in a wheelchair, then walker and now a cane. My father became her caregiver and has been very helpful at first when we brought her home I stayed down with them but taught him what she needed and he very soon took over. Long story short she had a horrible time while in rehab and as a result was only there for one week when the original plan was to stay for 6 to 8 weeks. I was able to get her out due to the home support that she had. Now she is afraid of everything falling, being sent back to "the home" when the therapist came she would be fine while they were here and then when they left she would cry because they hurt her. If she goes to a store and the floor is shiny and looks slippery she will not even try to walk on it she will turn around and want to go home. My dad gets very nervous taking her out because he never knows if she is going to just start freaking out. Other than high blood pressure she is very healthy physically but I worry about her being fearful. I go down to check on her and she starts crying and begging me not to send her back to the home and then other days she is great pays all her bills walks around without the cane and very positive. Is she just getting older and is scared? Is this the start of dementia? I tried talking to my dad and he just says shes fine and then he leaves with his slippers on and forgets his shoes. So of course I worry about him as well and his state. Any advice? I told her physician that she seems to be scared all of the time and he said sure she is who would not be. Any suggestions on how I can make her more comfortable and not so fearful? Also, how do I know this is not the start of dimentia?

Thank you all so much for your support

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Rosemary44 Sep 2016
My husband falls a lot and becomes very fearful. What works the best for him is to roll his own wheelchair in front of himself. When the fear leaves, the wheelchair gets parked. He has fallen using a walker, so that didn't work. When we go shopping, he gets the chore of rolling the basket around. Very supportive.

The wheelchair seat also works as a tray but my husband has dementia and he just doesn't get that part of using it as a carryall but maybe soon.

A good pair of walking shoes that have a grip feel to them and hopefully your Mom will feel secure, that's if she'll push the wheelchair or basket around.
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Hello all what a difference a few weeks make. I took mom to doc and he confirmed PTSD which he stated is very common in older patients that have had this type of experience. She was on SSRI but has been slowly been going off of it as she feels stronger and more confident. Her evaluations were very good she is actually quite healthy and no signs of dimentia. She is stronger using cane now Wheelchair gone, walker put in closet "just in case" We sat down and went through all of the exercises and came up with a plan for her she is now faithfully exercising 2x per day and whether permitting will go walking either outside or at the mall everyday and even walking around rummage sales. She is now able to walk up and down stairs and is sleeping through the night. Her explaintion "Yes I lost it I am well aware of my own mortality and am prepared for that what I was not prepared for was being at the mercy of others for something as simple as going to the bathroom" I believe it was all so overwhelming for her but now life is returning to normal therapists are gone doc appointments are becoming less frequent and she is getting into a regualr routine. Life is good for the moment like I told my husband 12 years ago when they moved in with us things will eventually get worse as they age and we will have to deal with that but today is good and we have to celebrate the good days. So today I am celebrating a good day and sharing the good things that have happened.

Thank you all for your support.
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Vstefan I figured that out when i went to the site but thanks for sending the correction!!
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Hi All,

Thank you so much Vstefans that was a great article and so true. I had a nice heart to heart with mom and she admitted she was more fearful of going back to "the home" or the hospital than the actual fear of falling. I believe you are right she has PTSD and had a frank discussion surrounding that thank god she is still very lucid and understood. Now that I also understand I can deal with it better as well. I am taking her for a mani pedi this weekend for some girl time. I also think it so consuming exercise, therapists, doctors, and healing that we forgot how to have a little fun too. I am still going to talk with her doctor next week as I want him to know her fears and my suspicions but I feel so much better.

I am truly blessed to have found this site and the caring people that have taken their time to help me a true stranger. Thank you all
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vstefans May 2014
Grr. I did not get that link right.
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vstefans May 2014
Hey - take a look at this JAMA article on "Reducing the Trauma of Hospitalization" and see what you think. What you are seeing is apparently a pretty common experience and the system needs to begin addressing it a lot more effectively: jama.jamanetwork/article.aspx?articleID=1867736
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daughterdeb Apr 2014
I found with my mother's fear it was more dealing with excepting her mortality. A companion for 2-3hrs helped my mother more than any physical therapy. My mother freaked out over the NH physical therapy and refused to go. Her concept of NH is not favorable. The in home physical therapy just reminded her she was "old and dying" Her words. Call visiting angels and see what it costs in your area. Look for a church that may have a volunteer.
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blannie Apr 2014
Wow, the rehab people sound very caring (NOT). I hope someday they get to experience what they put your mom through with their own need for bathroom help.

I agree with VStefans, it almost sounds like she's either having PTSD or even mini panic attacks. She's very lucky to have someone as sharp and caring as you in her corner. Imagine if it was just your parents alone. Your poor dad is probably scared/confused too, since your mom is so unpredictable. More medical investigation is definitely warranted and it sounds like you've got that under control. Like JeanneGibbs said, please keep us posted on how she's doing.
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vstefans Apr 2014
I think she may have PTSD. She endured quite a bit of pain, helplessnes, and fear, even if not intentionally inflicted. Now is sounds like she is having what sound like mini panic attacks, if not flashbacks, where either memories of falling or fear of falling comes rushing back at her. Possibly, if they can get her on a little low dose SSRI it might make all the difference in the world.

If a walker makes her feel secure enough to walk more, more so than the cane, let her use the walker. It is still plenty of exercise!
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jeannegibbs Apr 2014
A healthy respect for the risks of falling is generally a good thing. A paralyzing fear is not so good.

Would Mom be able to use the riding carts provided by many grocery, department, and discount stores? Or would she feel more confident with a rollator when she goes out, so she can stop and sit down if she feels stressed? Many places also loan wheelchairs to their customers for use in the store or museum, etc. My thought is that it is important to avoid isolation, so anything you can do to help her confidence level and allow her to enjoy going out is a good thing.

I wonder, with other posters, what was so terrible about the rehab center?

Nothing you've written sounds like dementia to me -- but obviously I am not an expert and even an expert couldn't diagnose from a few sentences. Are Mom and Dad both seeing a good geriatrician in addition to any specialists who might be following them? A geriatrician is an appropriate primary care physician for folks in their 70s with chronic health issues.

Best wishes to you all. Please keep us informed of the progress here.
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