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We noticed 85 year old MIL started to forget some people’s names: one of the grandchildren, one of her nephews, one of her son in law. She knows they exist but can’t recall their names.


Recently she confuses her sister’s name with her daughters’ names. Btw all these names are very different, they don’t sound similar at all.


Sometimes when she talks about her family she would refer to her adult children as her brothers and sisters instead of sons and daughters.


She’s been losing lots of her vocabularies and speaks in mostly pronouns. But forgetting or confusing names of immediate family members is a new one. Does it mean it’s a new development or is it part of the natural progression of cognitive decline?

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Ludmila, you can call the area on aging in her area and ask them for a needs assessment.

Do not tell MIL what you are doing. They will come in and talk to her and figure out pretty closely what her needs are. You can always say that you are interviewing new doctors and this is one that wants to come out and talk to her.

What kind of insurance does she have? Medicare Advantage plan will tell you who you can see, standard Medicare with a supplemental she can see any doctor that accepts Medicare. Hope that helps narrow down the search criteria.
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Ludmila Feb 11, 2020
thanks! She has standard Medicare. We will have to find her the right doctor. I wonder if the area agency on aging have a list of doctors, will check the website for it.
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It's a sad progression. When my Mom has her sundowning events, I am not her daugher, I am her sister. Her siblings are her children. Her parents are still alive and she always wants to go to see them. I usually say Grandma (her Mom) is at bingo and will be home later.

When she's not sundowning, new information is quickly forgotten. Old info is stored in her brain pretty good, but new stuff, forget it. I have to write everything down for her whether it be on a calendar or on a piece of paper. She will literally ask a question to something new a dozen times in 15 minutes. She gets mad because she can't remember not remembering the answer to the question and thinks she's only asked it once and that we are treating her like she's "a nut". Trying to explain anything, at least to her, just makes her angry (which I understand can be a part of dementia as well).

It can't hurt to get your Mom to a GP or neurologist just to get things checked out. Not sure what can be done; my Mom is on medication for memory and anxiety, but nothing is helping her at all.

Good luck. :)
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Ludmila Feb 11, 2020
MIL confuses names, has memory issues, low executive functions but cannot be reasoned, it is worse when she’s sundowning.
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Ludmila: She needs an appointment with her primary care physician - and by the way, did she go to her annual Medicare wellness exam? What were the results? Next step after that would be a neurologist.
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Ludmila Feb 10, 2020
We need to find her a new doctor. We have just become her remote care takers recently. Of course she insisted it’s just aging and resists getting evaluated.

another thing about the so-called Independent Living, most of the residents actually cannot live independently anymore, they have either physical or mental decline, basically they are pre-AL. When you get a bunch of them together they all think they are aging normally. That makes them feel better about themselves, which is good. But on the flip side she’s not aware of her own decline as much as we are aware of it.
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Family members tend to resemble one another. Mother tends to confuse me with her sister. Although I don't see the resemblance, other people do, so it only makes sense that sometimes Mother will think I'm her sister.
Sometimes it's difficult or takes a minute for her to remember which grandchildren belong to which child.
There have been times when she approaches random people and strike up familiar -- to her -- conversations. I just say something like to the stranger, "You really look like Mother's long time friend (name)." Most people are understanding and even give her a moment of their time.
All this isn't so frequent this far with Mother, but it makes me sad that there may come a day when she might not know me. I don't want her to be afraid. I am...
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Is it possible to get her in to an assisted living type board and care home?

You don't say what state she is in, but I have learned from this forum that it varies widely state by state what a facility provides, regardless of what it is called.

It is good to know that she has made some friends at her new place, maybe a caregiver for a bit each day would prolong her being able to live independently.

I do recommend a needs assessment, it will help you understand where she is living in her disease and help you make future decisions.

Any new symptoms should always be noted and get the senior checked for a UTI, it plays havoc with them in many new behaviors and the appearance of a sudden mental decline.
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Ludmila Feb 9, 2020
Thanks! we need to find a good doctor to have her assessed.
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My mother started doing 'this' also at about 85. She doesn't have Alzheimer's (thank God), so I've just assumed it's the natural progression of cognitive decline, also. I just looked this up (I know it's 1A to most of us in the forum, but I had to remind myself, thank you Google! "A truer sign of dementia [versus forgetting names] occurs when a person doesn't recognize a formerly well-known person, doesn't know the day or season, or has difficulty remembering new information."
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Ludmila Feb 9, 2020
Besides memory problem, MIL has trouble comprehending very simple notices from the her banks, she reads it to my DH over the phone and asks him if it is important ( no it’s not, just some boiler plate notices regarding minor policy update ).

she is unable to fill in her health questionnaires when she’s supposed to see a new doctor at her facility. she told us it is too much hassles, 50 pages of form to do just to see a doctor so she skipped her appointment. She tends to exaggerate it was probably a few pages but not 50.
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Dementia brings lots of losses. My sister, 4 years older than me(DPOA), tells me she loves "working" at her Care Home. Since I completely support the job concept,
I embellish her alleged employment by bringing her little treats, new clothes...
"Pat, I cashed your paycheck." It's a win-win for both of us.
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Davenport Feb 9, 2020
You are an angel!
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This is a normal part of the disease progression with dementia and other forms of cognitive decline. After a while, they won't recognize anyone.

I just politely correct them by "introducing" the to the person, such as, "isn't it nice that we are having lunch with Judy today?" - or whatever applies - as I point to Judy.
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It's is common to get names confused. Think about it, the family expands and it can be confusing when trying to recall. There were 5 kids in my family and it was common, even when mom was young, to start at the top and work her way down to the right kid's name! With dementia issues it is also common to use the wrong names or confuse people - the last part to go is memories from long ago. Seeing a grandson in current time may have a very familiar face to the brother she remembers as a kid. So it could be she is seeing her brother.

Finding the correct word as you age is common and more so with dementia. My mom is quite with it in regard to memory (at nearly 96) but often gets stalled looking for a word. We are a family of talkers so I try to remind the others to give her a little time to get it out and only offer suggested words when she's had a moment to think about it. Also, because she's putting her thoughts together a little slower than the others, they can overlook that she is not participating or don't allow her to interject. If you see that happening, stop the others and say - Mom is trying to tell you something.
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Davenport Feb 9, 2020
I'm 65, and my whole life I've been 'bad' with names. I really feel bad for elders with 12 grandkids ... not to mention great-grandchildren.
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My husband does not know names of most family members or their relationship to us, I just say "that's ok" if that seems to upset him. With this disease, keeping them calm and reassuring them it and they are ok, is best. Many times he thinks it is the first time he met them. But that's ok.
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Davenport Feb 9, 2020
I love your attitude, Marylepete. You're an angel.
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Forgetting and mixing up names is very much a natural progression of dementia. I remember my grandmother in later stages of dementia assuming I was her daughter if I was wearing a skirt but I was her son of I wore pants. Instead of correct names for days of the week she might say, "Today is yellow.". In its way, it was poetic. I always conversed with her in whatever was her reality at the moment and to this day am left with a memory of a certain beauty in "flexible perceptions." Relax your expectations that your LO will stay within the old reality. Keep her safe and look for the poetry.
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Davenport Feb 9, 2020
It IS poetic, RedVanAnnie--I LOVE that! My mom and her children are lucky that she has not been an 'angry' person [so far/yet], I recognize that MANY of us have angry, even mean elders, parents, what-have-you. I know for a fact I wouldn't consider 'it' one bit poetic in that circumstance.
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My grandmother would use the wrong names and one day she could not remember any names, this is what this awful disease does.

It really becomes about them feeling happy in the moment and enjoying the visit of whomever the person visiting is.

Can I recommend that you get a needs assessment done. This will help you find the best type of facility to meet her needs. If you choose a continuing care facility they will keep her where her needs are best met. They will step up the care as required.

Independent living to MC is a huge leap in care and it doesn't seem to me that someone living alone would qualify for MC. Just my opinion.
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Ludmila Feb 9, 2020
she does not need MC now but when her conditions worsen in the future she will. She is in IL. It is not a CCRC. We didn’t have time to look for one when my FIL passed away suddenly and we found out she’s impaired to the point it’d be dangerous for her to live alone.

since she is cognitively impaired ( not just memory issue but executive function, comprehension, reasoning, planning ) I wonder if she can even get into a CCRC. Our aunt is in a CCRC, she had to pass both physical and mental tests before they would admit her and it is super expensive.
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Ludmila, you stated she is in independent living. If she is becoming this mixed up I'm hoping someone has been checking on her at her apartment to see if there's signs of decline there, like food molding in fridge, paperwork in disarray, not tidy, etc. We discovered my MIL's short-term memory was very bad when we went to her home and opened the fridge and there was all the food we were providing her, rotting. She was forgetting to eat, and thinking she had eaten. Even when I called her on the phone and asked her to tell me specifically what she ate, she'd give me an answer. But later that day I'd go visit and look in her fridge, garbage and sink -- no signs of eating anything. So, hopefully someone has durable PoA for her and can make sure all her legal and medical ducks are in a row. FYI yes MC is expensive but get her into a nice, local place on private pay now (and make sure they accept Medicaid). Once she runs out of money she will have priority for a Medicaid bed. I wish you peace as you help her on this journey!
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Ludmila Feb 9, 2020
Thanks! MIL‘s place provides 3 meals per day. she has made a couple of friends. everyday they knock on each other’s door to go to the dining room together. it is so much better than living alone. At least we don’t have to worry about her becoming malnutritioned.

They also come in to clean every 2 weeks. She complains about it. she does not want them to come and she said they insisted on doing it. I think it’s good that they are able to check the residents living situation this way in case things start to get weird.

we don’t live in the same state. One of the SIL’s lives near MIL but is “too busy” to visit her own mother. We gave up on relying on her anyways.

we do need to look into memory care. Hopefully she can stay where she is for a while but there’s to telling how long.
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This is all part of the aging progression and Dementia. There are some drugs that may help with clarity but you cannot reverse this. Take her to the doctor and explain what is happening. If you don't feel comfortable talking in front of her, write your concerns down and give them to the staff to have the doctor read before he or she comes into the room. They really appreciate this. Make it short and to the point. Best of luck. It helped with my in-laws. There are both on dementia meds and things are better.
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I suspect that this is a sign of some cognitive decline, provided that it is a new behavior.

Throughout my entire family, it is quite common, and has been so for as long as I can remember. My mother used to tell us children to “wear your name tag!”, as she went through the names of all five of her children, boys and girls! We have seen this oddity in all the generations and feel that it is a genetic trait. We all, eventually, get the name straight, including my 88 year old mother, but it takes us a while to get there. I had thought everyone mixes up names, until my daughter married and told me that “no, it’s just us”, because her in-laws don’t do this.
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Ludmila Feb 8, 2020
Yes it is a new development. We are thinking it means she’s probably getting worse.
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At the beginning of my mom's memory problems she combined up to 4 people into a single person and chose a name for them all and to her they were all that 1 person. She did this mostly with rather distant relatives and friends, not with close family. Soon she forgot those combined people altogether.
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Davenport Feb 9, 2020
Wow, I'm impressed with your mom's resourcefulness at combining a number of peeps into one person. I think I may use it when I'm there. I'm truly sorry that your mom has progressed to not remembering people altogether. This business sucks.
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Based on my personal experience, now is the time to begin preparations for preparing to qualifying for medicaid if it will be needed in the future. Get ahead of the 5 year look-back. So sorry that anyone has to help manage this disease. It can be very difficult at times.
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Ludmila Feb 8, 2020
yes we should start looking into memory care. It is expensive. She has some savings and it will probably only last a couple of years in memory care. She is in independent living now.

I have been reading up on dementia and it seems there is no way to predict how many more years until she has to go into MC and how many years she will be in MC. Physically she’s healthy for now. But we don’t know how long that’s gonna last either.
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Yes, this is totally normal with a person with dementia or other cognitive decline. It's part of the disease progression.

My father had vascular dementia. Eventually, he did not know who I was. When I visited him in the nursing home one time, he looked at me and said, "Who are you?" I said, "I'm your daughter." He said, "Is that good?"
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Davenport Feb 9, 2020
I'm wondering how you respond(ed) to that question from him : )

I'd probably answer it differently every time I visited--sometimes with humor, sometimes with sadness, sometimes with spiritual introspection.
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I'm noticing this with my 95 y/o mother, who is mixing up generations of people she has known her whole life. However, it might be more a matter of remembering which name goes to which person than actually forgetting who they are (they live in another state so we can't test this hypothesis).

FWIW here is a funny case in which something like this happened to someone who didn't have dementia. I knew a family in which a couple grown sons resembled each other very closely although not twins. One day, the mother noticed one of them standing nearby, and said "John..or Hank... or whoever you are, will you please get me the [whatever the object was]?" We all had a good chuckle.
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Davenport Feb 9, 2020
We must not lose our sense of humor. Everyone is entitled to be happy and laugh and ALSO hold sadness in our lives. So many of 'us' lose our joie d'vie and ability to smile or laugh--and THAT is a tragedy.
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On the other hand,my grandmother, who had no other signs of cognitive impairment, used to just run through the list of her children's and grandchildren's names until she hit the right one.

Yet she was able to travel abroad on her own, handle her finances, serve on committees, etc. Memory is a mysterious thing...
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Ludmila Feb 6, 2020
Wow! That’s incredible!
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It's a natural progression of dementia & cognitive decline, unfortunately. My mother introduces me as her mother, and has been doing so for a few years now. She also introduces my husband as her husband. She was diagnosed in 2016 with unspecified dementia. Nowadays, she cannot remember names AT ALL; it's the worst of her memory deficiencies, it seems to me. That and what day of the week it is.

Terrible disease, this dementia & cognitive decline, isn't it? :(
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Ludmila Feb 6, 2020
We’ve only become aware of MIL’s issues after FIL passed away recently. Every time she exhibits a new memory issue we worry. We don’t know what her future will be like, e.g. what if or how soon she’ll need to move into a memory care facility.

it is a terrible disease. The funny thing is we worry about it much more than she does. She doesn’t seem concerned. From what I’ve read in the forum it’s very common I guess.
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She only has a handful of children in laws and grandchildren btw
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