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Yesterday she forgot where she parked her car and when we found it she just cried continually. When we suggest she goes back to the doctor she gets angry and won't listen to any suggestions. Apparently when she has more than one thing to concentrate on she just gets confused and forgets things. Her husband died a few months ago and I guess she is still getting over that. She lives on her own. Her out bursts of anger is getting out of control and also is drinking at night. She is 81. My sister and I live over 100kms from her.

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Got here because I like "following" Jeannegibbls. she always has great suggestions!
Recovering from the death of a spouse is really impossible. You're never "over it" but you do get better and more able to live life again.

The crying when the car was missing and then found...hells bells, I'd probably do that myself. I was at Costco today and after pushing this huge cart all over the store, darned if I couldn't remember which FULL lane of parked cars was the one I was in! So all over the side quarter of the lot went I...with a full cart and people all watching me as they were hoping to get my parking space. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry as I went right past my lane and had to U-turn it plus retreat to one additional section Northward. We have the most crowded parking lot and all these folks with huge cars want to park in the compact spaces. anyway, I can see crying.
Besides, I think crying is natures way of clearing our eyes.
Like others have said, give her more time before stepping in. One thing you can do is let her tell her story. She may want to talk about the death, she may want to talk about the future, she many want to talk about her worries. But getting her to open up that way is healthy. Ask about grief counseling and see if she would like you to go with her, just to get her started.
By 81 she knows about widowhood from her friends. Yet, it is never really what you think it is until you are there.
Unless there is something really apparent about the drinking at night, well, she may just want that calm feeling to help her go to bed. Many couples go to bed at the same time each night so it could be she is still resistant to going to bed knowing she will be alone. A couple glasses of wine may help. Your marriage bed can feel awfully cold when you are by yourself. she may be 81 but she may still remember what it was like being a wife and lover as well as mother to the kids.
Give her my best.
Bonnie
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I just remembered an incident many years ago when I shopping at a huge mall with two pre-schoolers. We walked out and I had no earthly idea where I had parked the car. None. I told a security guard my predicament, he took the car description and license plate number and drove around all umpteen lots until he found it, then came back and picked us up and drove us to it. Embarrassing, yes, but hardly evidence that I needed medical care.

Forgetting where you parked your car is NOT evidence of dementia or mental problems. So what other things is Mom forgetting?

Inability to multitask is a feature of mourning -- at least it was for me. Crying at emotional or stressful events is a feature of mourning. Anger can be a part of mourning, too.

What is "a few months ago"? Two months? Five? Nine? When did her husband die?

Not everyone who loses a loved one needs grief counseling. In fact, for some the experience of being with a lot of other people in grief may be counterproductive. And certainly not everyone who is sad over the loss of a spouse needs antidepressants.

Once upon a time we understood that mourning was natural and to be expected. We even had special clothing that identified those in mourning, so others could be extra patient, and not take outbursts personally. We did not expect widows to "get over it" or "pull yourself together" in a few months. We did not insist or trick people into seeing a doctor. Any kind of counseling was up to the individual.

Sanity, I think it is wonderful that you are keeping an eye on Mom. She needs your concern and patience and understanding now more than ever. Continue to monitor her situation closely. At some point some intervention may be needed, and it may become clear that her behavior stems from some other problems in addition to the mourning. But for now I think I'd I refrain from any suggestions that there is something wrong with her that she needs treatment for. She needs time to heal. She needs your support. She needs hugs, and phone calls, and visits. (At least that is what I need.)

If she is still having inappropriate outbursts and crying jags in several months, and particularly if her alcohol use is becoming problematic, then it may be time to gently direct her to some help.
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Is the drinking at night a new behavior? The drinking, the crying, recently losing her spouse and the forgetfulness are all tied in I would imagine. And if your mom is on medication the drinking can be hazzardous to her.

Who wouldn't be depressed after the loss of their spouse? But maybe a trip to the Dr. would be in order considering all of this stuff she has going on. An anti-depressant might be able to help her through this but not if she's drinking more than she usually does.

Crying when she lost her car could be from embarassment, a stressor on top of having just lost her husband. And anger is a very real symptom of grief.

She has a lot going on and it sounds like it all stems from grief. Address the grief and maybe some of these other behaviors will work themselves out. Would she consider grief counseling? Even just short-term. Maybe you could call ahead to her Dr., let them know what's going on, and see if they won't consider helping you in encouraging your mom to go to grief counseling, this way you don't have to have a confrontation in the Dr.'s office with your mom. Have the Dr. be the bad guy who suggests counseling. In my experience in taking care of my widdowed father Dr.'s are always agreeable to being the bad guy. When I knew my dad needed to stop driving but he wouldn't listen to me I called ahead to his cardiologist, whom he had a check-up with, and explained the situation and the Dr. is the one who suggested my dad stop driving and my dad listened to the Dr. Hearing something from a Dr. is not the same as hearing it from your adult child. We're still their children and don't know anything.
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My husband died five months ago. For the first 2 to 3 months I couldn't remember where I set my teacup or where I parked the car or which card from my wallet I used to buy groceries. (Hint -- it isn't the library card!) I truly had many symptoms that could be mistaken for dementia. This surprised me greatly. I expected to grieve, but what is with this mental fog? A psychiatrist and a psychologist (that I saw for other reasons entirely) assured me that while many people have strong emotional reactions, others do experience their grief cognitively. They assured me I'd get back to whatever was "normal" for me. At five months I'm still not quite there, but getting very close.

I think it is too soon to haul Mom off to a doctor. Let her grieve in her own way. Make time for her. You and your sister taking turns to call her every night might help minimize the use of alcohol. Sending her frequent "I'm thinking of you" cards may brighten her day. Occasionally making the trip to take her out for lunch or dinner may be very therapeutic. And reassure her that it is normal to be a little forgetful or distracted during this period of mourning. She will always miss Dad but she will be better able to cope without him as time passes.

I really had no idea how long the grief of losing a husband can last. I know now, and will be more understanding of others who experience this is the future.
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It will take time. It sounds like she is almost OK on her own, for now. I'm not sure that getting the diagnosis is alway helpful, since there's not much treatment available. When she has her next scheduled visit with the doctor, talk to him/her first. At that time he can schedule tests or referrals without making it clear that "there is something wrong with her mind." Over time, she may want to find out what's wrong herself, so don't push too hard just yet.

I think this may be the time for you to start looking into the care she will need in the future, with or without dementia. Can you maybe get someone to come in once a week to clean for her? They would be able to let you know how she's doing. Get in contact with any friends that live near her to learn what they have noticed.

It's a bad situation, but we all get there unless we die first.
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Sadly, she could still be grieving her husband's passing. Plus, it's hard to be "alone" after you've been with someone for any length of time. You get used to each other helping remember even little things like where the car is parked, did I get the mail, etc. And since she cried after finding her car, it gives me reason to believe she may be mildly depressed - which is totally understandable and nothing to be ashamed of. Maybe if you suggest to her that she go to the doctor for anxiety and offer to go with her in the softest way possible without making her feel bad or putting you out - she'll go. Or if you have to, make the appointment and make her go if you can. But only if she's really bad and really needs help. She may need to be on some medication for a little while just until she gets out of a slump or she may wind up being on it permanently, but with you offering to go with her and explaining to her doctor how she's been might be helpful and isn't putting all the pressure on her to explain it to her doctor. Just a thought? Good luck!
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