Has anyone observed a normal parent's memory decline while being surrounded by Dementia residents in AL? - AgingCare.com

Has anyone observed a normal parent's memory decline while being surrounded by Dementia residents in AL?

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Deep in my heart, I feel that Mom's mental capacity may very well have begun to decline at the same rate all alone in her own home, but I question if being surrounded by dementia residents does some harm. She has been in AL since October after a fall and rehab. In the past week she absolutely could not remember a major occurrence from the Fall. Yesterday I was taking her tops home to launder and she started talking about the great luck she's always had in her favorite store. She named the store and it was one that closed in the 1970's. I asked, where??? and she repeated the same place. I asked if she meant Coldwater Creek and she said... see, see what being surrounded by these people does to me?

She had a point. Would these signs have shown up faster if she was still alone in the house mourning the loss of my dad? I felt bad for her because she's very witty and funny and can see the humor in things, including forgetfulness. But, this was VERY different.

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A simple memory test given by an assisted living nurse does not even compare to the 2-3 hour neuro/psycology evaluation done by a professional. The things you described obviously are concerning to you. I remember my mother in law also caring for others patients with less ability than her when she was staged in moderate dementia. Different areas of the brain are effected in every person. An evaluation helps to determine a person's abilities,and establishes an appropriate care and treatment plan.
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Interesting question. Thought forms are contagious ("mob psychology" is an extreme example). If your mom is very empathic, well, who knows? Pets have been known to "inherit" their humans' ailments. Perhaps certain individuals have the same empathic quality.
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Amy,
It is wonderful that you see your mom so often! I am mom's caregiver so I also see her daily. One thing I have noticed is that seeing the decline on a daily basis tends to insulate me from the bigger changes. Often relatives that do not see her often are completely astounded by the change in her since they haven't seen her of spent significant time with her in months.

Her change was also noticed by her husband after spending three months in rehab following a hip replacement three years ago. While he still saw her every day while there, once he came home it was eye opening and somewhat traumatic for him. Up until rehab he was her only caregiver and did everything she needed. He used to say to her when she would make statements like "I haven't talked to my parents in a long time", he would say something along the lines of "now come on you know they are dead". These sorts of responses were devastating to mom, because then she would think nobody told her of the deaths. So, I guess I'm saying it is a double edged sword, whether you see them daily, or a couple times a year.

As they age, it is more difficult to process information. My mom and hubby always complain that the reporters are talking to fast for them to be able to understand. I am now nearly convinced that he is beginning to develop dementia as well after the doctor asked me about his memory just Friday. I had noticed things that he was forgetting that did not seem normal, but I always dismissed it thinking well I guess it was just not that important to make him remember. Now I will start keeping closer track.
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isnteasy, Wow, she IS becoming the caregiver to other residents and IS using her walker around them. .. won't use it in her room :( . Staff even asks her if she would mind sitting with someone who is having a bad day. She knows how to cheer them up. Your insight about "letting go of pretense" was most helpful for my own understanding. Thank you
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It's very unlikely that your mom's dementia has progressed because she's living with people whose dementia is further along than hers. In fact, I've seen people, especially women, improve because they take on a caregiver role with some of the other residents (helping them get to activities, helping them at mealtime...). That said, some residents experience a kind of "letting go" of pretense after they've been in AL for awhile. If they've been compensating (subconsciously) to appear less demented when they were living on their own, they tend to relax that practice when they become aware there are people around to help support them.

Walker use is a good example of this. Someone who may have refused to use a cane or walker for years, despite their doctor's and family's pleading, will start using one once they move into a community where it's not at all uncommon to see them in use.

Or, just as likely a reason, your mom's dementia has just taken a little leap instead of it's previously more smooth progression.
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Thank you nores and gladimhere for your responses, as well as the others who responded. You all are helping me tremendously in many ways. I need to make it clear that Mom is indeed pretty normal and is not diagnosed with dementia. She passed the simple memory test with flying colors given by AL nurses, and even chuckled when they came back to give it to her again, saying, "Time for the stupid test yet another time?" Yes nores, she was on narcotics at the time but is no longer on narcotics. Rehab did a fall eval and she scored quite low because of weakness. She wants nothing to do with strengthening herself; never has. AL activities look good to me, but she won't do any activities; never has.

gladimhere, I have seen Mom almost daily for the past 7 years and have noticed no tidbits of decline. But I suppose it could be possible that I have been missing something. She has even stopped me to tell me that I am difficult to process since her stroke, as I tend to talk too quickly for her. Going off on tangents is something we've always been able to do while still being able to get to the main subject. I carefully try not to do that to her.

I guess my question has ended up being more of a way to hear things from you all. How would any of us know for sure if being surrounded by confused people will make you that way? Thank you all
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Amy, it is extremely difficult to watch a parent with dementia decline. Many of my relatives are firmly in denial about mom's Alzheimer's. One even thinks she is "normal" that what is occurring must be due to something that is not being done that should be. Your question refers to your mom as normal. She has had a tremendous amount of stuff to deal with. How often did you see her before theses recent changes? Could it be possible that there has been more decline than you realized because now you are seeing her more?

Please do not take this the wrong way. I am not trying to be critical. These methods of denying something is terribly wrong with mom have been used in my family. It is very hard to witness a loved one that was so vital, active and outgoing lose their cognitive skills. Some just do not want to face it.
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Amy, what you see is progression of dementia.Yes people become confused in new surroundings. Encourage her to take part in the AL activities. When my mother in law was in rehab she could not follow a schedule so the assistants would come get for various activites. I can't suggest more to have a neuro/psych eval. done to stage your mother's dementia. It will help with her care and you to understand where she is at. After taking care of my mother in law I swear her Alzheimers rubs off on me when I can't find the words in conversation I am looking for! LOL!
It is possible her falls were due to narcotics, if she was still on them at time of fall. It could also be a sign of worsening motor ability or even poor eyesight. In any case she is still at risk of falls whether she is at home or in AL. Has she had an evaluation for that? Unfortunately, the dementia only gets worse...hang in there!
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I like that, akdaughter, "I have accepted that this is just the way her mind works" Thank you all for responding.
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My mom is 87, widowed for almost 7 years, and moved to AL almost two years ago after a fall, broken ankle and rehab. Her memory function changes from time to time. She has days where she is fairly well oriented and can remember the names of my children, and other days when she is very confused about even her own history, telling me she used to work at the independent living facility where she lived before AL, and other things that I know never happened. I used to kind of panic when she started saying "crazy stuff" and have her checked for a uti (always negative) and worry if any of her meds could be causing problems. Now I have accepted that this is just the way her mind works, and try to "go with the flow". I doubt that the other residents have much affect on your mom's mental decline. Dementia is a progressive disease. In fact, being in AL with activities and socialization may be slowing her mental decline as opposed to living at home alone.
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