My mom is about to turn 80 this Friday. She is scared to death! Her mother died at 84 with full blown Alzheimer's. Any advice? - AgingCare.com

My mom is about to turn 80 this Friday. She is scared to death! Her mother died at 84 with full blown Alzheimer's. Any advice?

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My mother is constantly forgetting things and it is driving her nuts. She cries often and gets upset with herself. She has some health issues and is really afraid of getting old and losing her mind. This has all come on pretty fast. It started a little less than a year ago when she missed one too many on her drivers lic test. Than went back and failed again and again. She's never failed before. It devastated her. Although my mom has always been an uplifting and positive person, she now constantly talks about all the negative things that have occurred in her past, i.e., my dad was an Alcoholic, her mom was verbally abusive at times, etc. It's something she talks about constantly. I don't know how to help her. I feel so helpless. I try to redirect her thoughts to happy ones. I listen and tell her that I hear her fears and I love her. It's extremely hard to handle without getting frustrated after awhile. I need guidance for my mom and for my own sanity. It makes me cry every time and I have my own health issues and I try to not bring extra negative energy in my life as that's when my symptoms get worse so I feel worse too. I welcome any advice and suggestions as I'm new to this...thank you! 😥

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God bless you for looking for ideas early on.

With the big birthday coming up, and her mother's example in front of her, there could be a sizeable element of 'self-fulfilling prophesy' about the mental stress your mother's experiencing at the moment. She's anxious, it wrecks her confidence and her concentration, so she has difficulty with memory-related tasks, and that frightens her (naturally), and round and round you go in the vicious circle.

At the same time, it would be silly and self-defeating to pretend that there couldn't possibly be any cognitive or sensory or neurological decline going on. 80, even by today's standards, is well past middle age. It would be only sensible to get a baseline assessment done so that at least you can keep an objective eye on any future changes.

"Present fears are less than horrible imaginings..."

In your place, I'd want to offer reassurance and encourage a formal assessment through a memory clinic, older age psychiatrist, or whatever in-depth method your mother's PCP suggests. It is always better to know where you stand than to hide under the bed and dread things that may not even be there; and once you have a clearer picture you'll also have a much better idea of what medications and other therapies are most likely to be really helpful.
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Reply to Countrymouse
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Gutemack, I can understand your Mom's fear that she thinks she might have inherited Alzheimer's from her Mom. There is always a chance that your Mom made have inherited different genes from her Dad's side of the family, thus her chances may be low on getting Alzheimer's. Or the Alzheimer's could have skipped a generation.

I climbed up into my family tree to see if there were any health issues among those who lived a very long life. My Dad was 94 when he was showing sizes of dementia but the love of his life had passed the prior year. Now my Dad's grandfather was said to be senile in his 90's as he would walk to town [it was like Mayberry] and would be gone for hours. He would say he got lost, but I think he was visiting friends just to get out of the house :)

My Mom had dementia but that was caused from head trauma when Mom had two serious falls. For all you know, your Grandmother could have developed dementia from such a fall.

Does your Mom talk to anyone who is around 80 years old. I find it is so much better when you find others in your age group going through the same thing.

Tell Mom her brain is like a bunch of filing cabinets, and when we get into our 70's and beyond, those cabinets are overflowing from all the information, thus when we try to remember something, it takes our brain a lot longer to find that bit of information. I usually find my answer at midnight :P
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Reply to freqflyer
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Thank you all for your helpful advice! My parents had been here visiting with me over the weekend and have now gone back home so I can breath and think more clearly for a bit. I did find out she did do a brain test thru her pcp n she said it didn't show anything. However, I did not see the test or talk w the dr. He did prescribe her airaset and my dad buys her prevagen over the counter (spelling?) both for memory. She was in an accident a few months back where my dads sandal got caught in the gas pedal and they ran head on into a wall exiting a kohls parking lot n my mom hadn't buckled her seatbelt completely so she hit the dashboard pretty hard, and although the hospital found no broken bones or head injuries, it has seemed to worsen since then as well.

I agree full on in self-fulfilling prophecy and diet, but she disregards most of my suggestions...it makes me sad for not being heard. How can I help when I'm not looked at as knowing anything, yet I work in healthcare lol.

Since I do not live near them at this moment, I took time yesterday to contact the del web community that they live in to inquire if they had any resources or support groups I can connect my dad with, as well as pick their mind on ideas. My parents have always bent over backwards helping others...hopefully someone will be there this time for them.

Thank you all for your guidance and advice. This was my first experience of reaching out and I feel like I've been heard. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I suddenly do not feel alone in this battle I am about to adventure into! ♥️
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Reply to Gutemack
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I can understand your Moms fears. I think the sensible thing to do it have her evalutated and talk to the doc about meds. There are meds out there that slow the approach of Dementia. There are other things that can be done as well, diet ..etc. Talk to her about that and try to take a positive active approach .. I think that might help her. Sometimes just knowing your in the fight is all you need
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Reply to baskethill1
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Take a look at this website. My MIL was worried about the same thing and I printed it and went over it with her. She even cut it out and put it on her fridge when they lived in their own home (some time ago, now). She's 88 and 80 seemed to be the magic number for her as well.
alzheimer.ca/en/Home/About-dementia/What-is-dementia/Normal-aging-vs-dementia
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Reply to Ceecee65
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History does NOT necessarily repeat itself when it comes to longevity. My mother's mother and her maternal grandmother both died at age 72. My mother's aunt made it to about age 85, and my mother is now 93.
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Reply to jacobsonbob
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I agree with CountryMouse said. Your Mom's anxiety could lead to "self-fulfilling prophesy" in regards to the development of Alzheimer's or dementia.

As suggested previously, I think that your Mom needs to have a thorough work-up by her PCP and maybe a geriatric doctor. That way your Mom and you would both know what exactly is going on and what you can do to help minimize the effects of getting older.
God Bless!
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Reply to DeeAnna
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I know how she feels. I am 80, and I don't remember things as well as I once did. Both my parents and my maternal grandfather died before age 80, so I don't know if they would have developed Alzheimer's, but I've had my DNA tested and I carry one copy of the apoE4 gene for late onset Alzheimer's (two copies would make it almost a sure thing). I do think my maternal great-grandmother had it; my grandparents with whom she lived called her senile and she used to take her clothes off and wander around the house. I know they never called a doctor for her, and I think they just let her die when she quit eating. I think this happened in her mid-80s. I do still pass the mini-test for cognition, so I try not to think about it too much.
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Reply to Arleeda
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In addition to the great answers you've already seen -- most of which I agree with (especially about cognitive testing, which it sounds like she may have had) -- I would add that talking about all the 'negative' things from the ancient history of her life would be Perfectly Normal for someone our age or older. It tends to arise spontaneously in people as we start thinking about even the 'cognitive decline' that is part of normal aging, and also as we begin to seriously confront our eventual mortality.

It's also 'normal' for family and friends to try to redirect us to 'happy thoughts' -- but that's actually not helpful. Each of us, as we get older, needs to be able to process some of the events and situations that were tough back then, especially the ones we have carefully tried not to think about for a long time.

But it's hard for untrained family and friends to hear all that, much less be able to usefully reflect it without trying to 'fix' any of it. Can you get her an appointment with a chaplain? I don't necessarily mean 'clergy' here -- it's not about faith or theology -- but rather someone trained to listen and validate her emotions without trying to take her out of them. Once she has expressed them fully, they will usually become much less distressing to her (and to those around her). If she'll go to a Licensed Counselor or a Psychotherapist, that could be even better (but lots of folks in her generation think that's only for 'crazy' people, which it sounds like she is not).

Life Review is an important part of the old-age process for most of us, so don't stop her from doing it. But you don't have to be the one listening.

Big round-number birthdays quite often bring forward a sort of 'review of all the tough past' -- and you don't need to try to fix that.

--

And I almost forgot: you mentioned her alcoholic parent. See if you can get to a meeting of Adult Children of Alcoholics. You can go with her; as an Adult Grandchild of an alcoholic, you qualify. You might both be amazed how much the issues other folks talk about can sound familiar. And it might be a great place for her to do the 'negative' review she has been trying to voice.
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Reply to maggiebea
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This is helpful for me, I don't know if it would be helpful for your mom: Ask her what she is frightened about with ALZ. Is it being a burden? is it the cost of care? is it being alone in a care facility? Is it the possibility of abuse? Is it the lost of independence? All these are legitimate fears. All have answers.
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Reply to K43d35
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