Mum’s short term memory loss. What do I do?

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Hi everyone, I am sorry if this question has already been asked but I am quite worried about my mum. Mum is 64 and in the last 2 to 3 years her behaviour and short term memory have declined. She has had depression for over ten years and has had a major family break down in 2015 that has affected her even more. Apart from bouts of sadness, crying and highly emotional moods mum has also had short term memory lapses. For example she forgets where she bought something, what she has gifted to dad for Christmas (yesterday), what date an event has occurred. She misplaces things a few times a week but eventually finds them (this didn’t happen as often before). She gets confused easily and a couple of times seemed disorientated in a shopping centre she has been going to for a long time. She remembers things once prompted or given more time to think. She still cooks every day, does all house chores, manages grocery shopping and spending. She has good days and then bad days where she just can’t remember if I told her something yesterday or day before.

Mum has been in an emotionally abusive relationship all her life, she has not had a long term career and has devoted her life to raising 3 kids. She has a few friends, but doesn’t interact with them regularly. She also doesn’t engage in any intellectual conversations, just has no interest in many things. She has always been like this. She takes care of herself, grooming and hygiene wise.

I am very close to both mum and dad and have taken care of them for over a decade now as their English is poor. I am super anxious about anything to do with mum and dad, constantly worried that they are not well or need my help. The three of us have survived 4 years of a civil war together, so my attachment to them is stronger than normal parent-adult child relationships.

I have taken mum to a memory clinic in May 2017 and she wasn’t diagnosed with dementia, but the report notes she has depression, that she scored low in the memory test and that she couldn’t do the clock test. I am concerned she has early symptoms of dementia that weren’t picked up on because mum was crying during the memory clinic tests. She is aware of her memory issues and is afraid that she is going to lose all her memory. What do I do? Should I take her for another test? Her doctor doesn’t think she has dementia and believe it’s her high blood pressure, depression and ageing. Am I over thinking this or should I follow my gut feeling telling me something is not right?

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Gordana You are a lovely person. Hugs to you :)

I will tell you part of my own story. It might help if you read it to mum.

I am 72/3 and forget things. It seems to come in sections. I am 'alright' for ages and ages. Then I have, what I call 'A BAD WORD WEEK/DAY' (usually about a week.)
I know that I do know the words but I just cannot get to them in my mind. I have got into the habit of telling anyone I am speaking to that it is a BAD WORD time. Then I laugh. It makes them not feel as embarrassed, when I do what I do. I describe the item I cannot remember the name of (or person) For example teabags. = those round things in the tin we make drinks from. lol We usually figure it out.

I am on BP tablets too (and a few others for various things) I didn't have a good life either, but no where near what you and your family went through (Have a hug from me for that) All of you EXCEPT your dad. Bullies don't get one. (My dad was a bully too and an alcoholic)
I have so much stuff to try and remember, I keep a small pad and pen with me at all times. As something crops up, I write it down. Like I do with the shopping list. As we use it so it goes on my list to replace it. All birthday and special occasions are written on the calendar. Every year.

Over the years, I have done a lot, learned a lot, seen a lot. Now think of my brain as a filing cabinet. The things I am doing regularly and need to utilise the most are in the top draw, so I can get to them easily. Everything else gets filed in the lower drawers. I can get to them but it might take longer. lol

This was just a snippet from my on-going saga. I do hope that any of what I said might help.

Take care and more hugs for the 2 of you.
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Hi, my mom is 94. She has over the last 4 years falls. Last fall was horrible. Meds weren't take right and mixed up and doc had her on tramadol, which at times her back is really bad-prescription of 50 mgs twice a day. Her last all was horendous and I found her bady bruised so now is in assisted living. Went to rehab and had a stroke. They claim she has short term memry. Cannot understand the clock, numbers or even write her name but is physically capable of dressing herself and is now in a real nice one room place. She can't remember her granddaughters name, not even what she has had for lunch 3 hours before. I don't know if she has dimentia or short term memory and I wonder what I can do to help her. She also had a stroke a year ago. Tends to fall alot. Anyway, I wonder where I would go to get her evaluated and what she needs. She has had speech therapy but they don't do even basics with her, i.e. numbers, etc. They challenge her and thats ok but I asked about that. They said she has reached a plateau. I worked with her last year with numbers and she got some of it back. When you lose your memory such as a stroke, why don't they start with basics. They are little kids. She cannot make a proper statement without a struggle and gets frustrated. Don't know what to do with her at this point.
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blannie, mum has gone through menopause in her early 50s. I initially thought she might be going through it as well, especially given her changes in moods. She is on meds for HBP. She has also been diagnosed with small vessel disease in 2015. I think this is due to HBP and can cause memory loss.

I dont understand how integral the clock is to the overall result. The report states she had difficulty drawing it but that this result should be interpreted with caution as she was crying throughout her whole test. Mum has always been a highly emotional person, unfortunatelly I got that from her too! To be honest, I think that she has hit a point in her life at which she realised a few things that are hard to face (being married to wrong person for 43 yrs and a number of others).

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my post. I am not coping at the moment so telling someone what is going on helps me. I am finding it very hard to accept that mum isnt what she was like a few years ago and I generally find it hard to accept that both mum and dad are ageing. It sounds ridicilous as I am 30yrs old, but I really struggle to just accept it. I am not sleeping well and often just cry. Mum and dad have had a really hard life, not just the war but also moving to Australia in their 50s, after they lost absolutely everything they worked for. Its incredibly hard to start a life from scratch at this age, with 1 suitcase being your only posession. I have a great career now and I expect to support them until the last moment of their lives. I just want them to be healthy for as long as possible. I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to take care of them and give back to them for bringing me here and giving me an amazing future.
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Hi BarbBrooklyn, I will try explaining it to mum in that way too. She is on meds for HBP but skips pills at times. Very hard to get her to change her behaviour and become more responsible for taking medication regularly. Thank you for your response :)
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Just as a basis for comparison, my mom lived to almost 98. In the last 10 years of her life, she had zero short-term memory. But even so, she was able to take care of herself and lived alone in an independent living facility after my father died in 2009 until she passed away this year. I took her food and did a lot for her, but she kept to her daily schedule and did OK. I never had her dementia formally diagnosed, but through her insurance, a visiting nurse came and as a part of her exam, did the clock test. My mom failed it, which shocked me. She could read a clock and tell time, but couldn't draw one. So one can still be somewhat independent even without much short-term memory.

I'm more concerned about your mom's overall medical state - the high blood pressure can lead to a lot of bad consequences, including some forms of dementia. So she needs to stay on her medications and try to eat healthily (very low-fat, few animal products if any) to keep her arteries clear. She's awfully young to be experiencing these kinds of issues, but she's also lived through some horrific situations that could account for some of her problems. Has she gone through menopause? That can also wreak havoc on one's memory. 

You're a wonderful daughter for trying to help both of your folks.
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Gordana, what I told my mom was that we needed to get a " baseline" at her age so that going forward, we could tell if she had any issues. My mom also had vascular dementia, which is very different from Alzheimer's. HBP can be a contributing factor, so good to keep that under control.
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If she scored low on the memory test and failed the clock test,, something is up. Even with a possible language barrier clocks are pretty much the same everywhere. It could be stress, but I would check this out. And I agree no need to tell her too much
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Thank you both for your answers and for your time. I am going to speak to mum carefully to get her to agree to another test. My biggest challenge is getting her to re-do it, without getting very upset about it and therefore contributing to poor results. If she doesnt want to redo it, maybe like what BarbBrooklyn says I will need to wait for something worse to happen for mum to realise she needs help.
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First, I would reassure your mother that she won't lose all of her memory. Even if this is not the case, it definitely doesn't help for her to know it. Assure her that everyone has memory issues, especially when they are stressed, tired, hungry etc. Then I would go get her tested again. It helps a lot (at least for me it did) when you know what you are dealing with. When my mom's issues first arose, I had doctors telling me it was Alzheimer's without doing a single freaking test. I took her to a neurologist and told him what the doctors were telling me. He asked her to give her name, address and date of birth. Once she responded correctly, he told me she was fine and to follow up in 6 months. I then took her to a memory specialist who did a 3 hour assessment and diagnosed her with vascular dementia. There isn't much help for it other than to manage the underlying causes. However, knowing that it was vascular helped me to deal with some of the particular symptoms a little better than if I hadn't known. Definitely get her reassessed. Her depression medications might need to be changed too if she does have dementia. It can change the way they respond to medications they previously tolerated very well. Good luck!!!
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If you're able to get to another doctor, I would. Sometimes more general practitioners are slow to grasp the depth of problem or see the signs...sometimes the patient encounter can be too brief or the patient is good at covering. It sounds like your mother clearly is suffering, understandably from depression, but the fact that you even indicate scoring poorly in memory and other tests could mean she is in the early stage of a dementia...and there could be many good years remaining. Or improvement if the depression is dealt with. With the passage of time (when was the last test) her scores may be different. High blood pressure and ageing do not necessarily mean you have depression. I know in retrospect that my own mother's behaviors were so similar to her usual that we didn't pick up on what was going to for a very long time. Your folks are lucky to have such a good daughter. I hope they appreciate you:-)
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