We have noticed lately that Mom is short tempered, paranoid, erratic. mean. Not normal. Any advice? - AgingCare.com

We have noticed lately that Mom is short tempered, paranoid, erratic. mean. Not normal. Any advice?

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Mom still works and seems to function fine mostly. She is 72, lives alone, drives fine. She drinks more than I like, but less than she used to. She just texted us(3 kids) to say she was going to Mexico for 2 weeks. Didn't tell us where she was staying. Normally I would be caring for her dog and her house-she never told us she was going until she was literally getting on the plane. This was at a time when I was scheduled for a critical event that normally she would have been there for. She visits people and takes offence at little things and leaves in a huff. Neighbors complain about something and she wants to move. She picks fights over, literally, nothing. She says mean, unkind things. She speaks about how long she has left to live (says her doctor gives her til she is 79, so why is she bothering for the next 7 years?) She does forget how to use her technology a lot-simple things like basic cable usage. Her bills are paid, she has kept a low paying menial job for more than a decade to supplement bad retirement planning. She actually complained that the doctor who removed her lung cancer a couple of years ago made her miss 3 days of work when it probably wouldn't have killed her anyway(!?!-her mom, brother and my father all died from lung cancer, she was lucky they found it so early)
She says mean things that totally would come under the "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" lessons when I grew up. Just unnecessary observations that have no usefulness other than to make another person feel crappy. She is always talking about peoples weight issues or family issues-gossipy. She sometimes says it like she is just "concerned", but the same family member will come up in conversations repeatedly-its not like church lady "bless her heart" kind of talk. That's another thing. The repetition of recent stories. She can tell me about a visit or an offence or a meal 12 times. She doesn't talk of the distant past. Its current stuff.

Is this dementia or is she just turning into a mean old lady without any medical or mental health issues?

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Do you know it was paranoia that caused her not telling you? Maybe she is sneaking off with a man and she did not want you to know. My mom has Alzheimer's and she is still concerned about looking prim and proper. When she does not remember she is married she often would try to get her husband to go home at bedtime.

And the smart phone? There are functions on my phone that I have been shown how to use and have to really think about it to remember. Even then I am not always successful. Smart phones are relatively new technology the younger generation has used them much more. They are part of your culture. Not so much those of us that are older.
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I did just talk to her (much younger) sister who tells me not to be alarmed, though she has noticed some of points herself. Both of my mom's parents died at about 40-41 (lung cancer and heart failure) so there is not a lot of experience of growing old in her family, however, she has taken really good care of herself physically other than the drinking. The only other relative that we saw "old" was paternal grandmom and she was mean from the get go and according to her kids, she was (if anything) nicer in old age-mellowed. So, we are all kind of flying blind here.
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Alcohol and SSRI's don't mix well, and produce the behavior you describe.
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Her planning isn't what I am worried about. It is the paranoia that went into the planning without telling any of us.

I have stayed with her a few weeks and she doesn't have any habits that are alarming at home, but she does have troubles with using her cable and aspects of her smart phone that she has been taught. She is also mad at other people a lot, makes nasty remarks, picks fights (with me and all of my siblings). She has a drinking problem which was really bad for a few years after my dad died (15 years ago). It has calmed down a lot, yet she never quit or acknowledged that she was using it inappropriately. She takes anti depressents and medicine for HBP also. The rules are for other people and she has always done it and knows what she is doing.

THe doctor situation is difficult-she is in a HMO and her long time doctor just left the company and she hasn't got a regular replacement that she likes yet. She shunned me for weeks after mentioning her religion in a FB post (in a list with others). She would not allow me to go to doctor with her. That is another thing. She has gotten very vague and doesn't tell me anything other than "I checked out good" when I ask her, usually. Her recent cataract surgery is the exception, she is forthcoming about those visits and complains a lot about how her eye feels and looks (convinced her eyes "look fake".) I don't doubt her discomfort and she has gotten some stuff to help it, but the big visits she is vague about.

A recent time that I rode in the car with her, she picked a fight and I thought I was going to be left in the boonies, she then ordered me to shut up, not say a word until we got back to her house. Her last road trip to visit brother for weekend ended up with her arriving and leaving within an hour because she was offended that he reminded her he didn't like dogs in the kitchen. No one can say ANYTHING about her dog, not even an affectionate tease without mom taking it as an insult to her dog.
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There is something going on and it may be a medical condition. Has she had blood work done lateley? She may even have a urinary tract infection. Go with her to the doctor. I suggest you send the doctor a letter or email noting changes that you have noticed prior to the appointment. That way you at least are able to tell doc your concerns without having mom interfere during the appointment when it would be difficult to remember everything.

If she is going to Mexico her planning could not have been too bad.
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It could be a number of things. Has anyone actually stayed in her house with her for a couple of days? Rode in the car with her? Checked her bills and accounts? Sometimes, we think people are doing fine, but when we really examine what's going on, we see that it isn't. I would do that and makes sure.

I might also make an excuse to go with her to her doctor appt. and let them know what's going on. You might send them a note in advance of your concerns and observations. First, I'd make sure I had a signed Durable POA and Healthcare POA. You'll need that to act on her behalf.
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Sounds like SOMETHING is going on, that's for sure. It could be dementia. It could be depression. Could be a change in medication. Your family may want to accompany her to a doctor visit and point out her behavior changes.
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