My wife has Alzheimer's dementia, but she refuses to acknowledge that she has a memory problem. Is this the norm? - AgingCare.com

My wife has Alzheimer's dementia, but she refuses to acknowledge that she has a memory problem. Is this the norm?

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My wife of 65 years has dementia/Alzheimers. She has never acknowledged that she has a memory problem. Is this the norm? Our two daughters and I started noticing personality changes in her about 6 years ago. And when our 15 year old grandson died in Feb of 2008, we knew for sure that something was seriously wrong. Our daughters live about 3 and 4 hours away, and after getting the message that he had died so suddenly, I was devastated. She didn't seem to know what was going on. On the 3 hour drive to our daughters house, she carried on conversations as if nothing had happened. I should interject here that her phone conversations with the girls always ended up with her telling the same stories over and over. That's what she was doing on our drive to our daughters house, I wasn't wanting to hear her stories about her aunts and cousins again, I was grief stricken. When we got there, everyone was grieving the sudden loss of the son and grandson. Not her, she acted like it was a regular family visit, and she never grieved our loss of our loved one.
Later on, the girls and I got together and discussed the situation. We all agreed that there was definately something wrong, and we decided that the thing to do was to get her to our family Dr.. I contacted the Dr. and told him what the situation was, then made an appointment for her to see him. He gave her a mental test, she failed it. Then he referred her to an Neurologist. The Neurologist had many tests, scans, etc done. He put her on Aricept, but she wouldn't take it like she should. She was aware that Aricept was for dementia/Alzheimer's, but said that she didn't have that. The girls have a loving relationship with their mother, they talk for hours every week with her. We were all bracing ourselves for the time when she would ask one of us if we thought she had Alzheimer's, and even though we had our responce all figured out, the question never came. Her memory is so bad now that we don't think she will ever ask the question. Her short time memory is gone. People that we have been friends with for 40-50 years, she doesn't recognize them any more. She will ask me a question and I will answer her, only to have her ask the same question again in the next hour. I am patient with her, and don't argue with her when she makes mistakes about the facts on things. Both girls and their husbands have gone to caregivers class, and then when a class was going to be presented in my city they came for a visit at that time so I could slip off and attend the seminar.
Her driving is another thing. One of the unusual things that got us to wondering about her in the first place stemmed from driving. She always went grocery shopping by herself once a week, did this forever (and went shopping for anything she needed, drove everywhere). But I kept noticing that every time she came back from town, she had some story to tell about almost being run over by another driver, or she witnessed someone else almost having a close call. Looking back on all that, we came to the conclusion that she was getting afraid to drive, or that she got lost a few times. Bottom line was, one morning she got ready to go into town(we live about 7 miles out), had her purse on her arm, but hesitated at the door. She turned to me and said she didn't need many things at the store, could we stop at Wal Mart when we both into town. I said sure, no problem. Her trip to town the previous was the last time she has driven, and that has been at least 5 years. But for the last couple of years, she has been telling the girls that she is going wait until I am outside in the garden, or doing something in the shop, and she is going to get in the car and drive to town. She got so adament about this that I thought I had better take the keys out of the car and keep them with me. She had a set of keys in her purse, and I managed to slip them out and hide them. She has never fussed at me about driving, it's always to the girls, and she is still telling them that she is going to slip off in the car one of these days. They tell her she can't do that, it would scare me to death if I discovered her gone. But she doesn't listem to them when they make a statement or have a question. She does 90 percent of the talking when they are on the phone, and doesn't respond to anything they ask her. She isn't ignoring them, we just think that her braain can't compute what she hears.
At 83, she is physically in good health, and I am also in good health for a man my age. We love her from the bottom of our hearts, but we all know what we are facing. Her memory has declined so much in the last several months, and seems to be accellerating downhill. I will take care of her as long as I can, she is my loving and faithful wife.
This story is so rambling, I hae to jump in with something I remember as I remember things. Falling asleep so much, and that's after getting a good nights sleep, is this common? OK, out of space. No spell check here, please forgive. And forgive all the rambling, but it is good to get vent my thoughts. I will re-read this to see if submit.

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Oops, I just noticed that this discussion is from 2012! Apologies for responding as if it were current!
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Hi Phillsam, I know every situation is different, but I hope this is some comfort: my mother speaks about traveling and taking on projects the same way your wife does about driving. She will converse as if she's planning on taking a trip, or starting a project, but either is not able to put it into action, or she really has no intention of putting it into action. Whatever she's talking about, she never actually does (this is when I realized that I'd better take over her finances, because things were obviously becoming a bit much for her to handle, and yet, she kept saying that she was 'getting to it.') I hope there's some comfort in this. Your decision to take the keys away is a good one. When we have to start making moves that seem bold, unfair, and/or sneaky, it's SO uncomfortable and there's so much fallout that we try to prepare for. But at this stage, I'm discovering that much of the time, our intervening ends up having no negative consequences. Take care.
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Henry102,

It's better if you start your own thread under "Questions and Discussions", you will get so many more responses than asking a question on a thread that's 6 months old. On this thread your question is buried.

But to answer your question, sometimes people are able to get their loved one to a Dr. if they tell them something like, "The Dr.s office called to remind you of your regular checkup." When trying to get a loved one to the Dr. we have to be creative and sometimes sneaky. But if she refuses to go you can't force her, you can't throw her over your shoulder and shove her into the car.

Alzheimer's and dementia have many overlapping symptoms but are 2 very different things. You're right to want to get your wife to the Dr. She may be noticing signs and symptoms in herself, is scared, and is taking it out on you. Unfortunately this happens sometimes.

Start a new thread of your own and you'll hear from more people out there. I'm sure you'll get some more suggestions.
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my wife is showing increasing signs of alzheimers but blames me for everything that is happening. She won't go to the GP or see anyone to talk things over. What do I do?
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HI Philsam,

I am a daughter - care giver, my Mom has dementia. I guess (in the scheme of things) we are blessed since she is well into her 90s and has only developed this illness in the past 21 months.

Yes, my Mom and most of the residents of the memory care facility where she lives do sleep a LOT. It seems to be part of the illness. I find this especially true when she is not fully engaged in an activity. You might check out the alzheimers website for more info (alz.org) . If you have taken away the keys to the car (and hidden them) it would seem unlikely that your wife would drive after 5 years of not doing so.

My Mom lives in her own world, and (fortunately) it is a happy one! Her stories don't always make sense but she is engaged in the telling of them. She has identified other residents as her brothers, and while I can see some similarities, her brothers are long gone.

There are lot's of books for you and your daughters to read that talk about this illness from a care giving view. The illness progresses and the challenges change but this site has so many caregivers who are ahead of each of the stages you face, there is always someone with an idea or two. Tune in often and soon YOU will be helping others with your ideas.
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phillsam, I loved reading what you wrote. We hear things many times from the children's perspective. I was deeply touched hearing it from the husband's. What you are describing does sound to me like the earlier stages of dementia. I am glad that you are her spouse. It is easy to see how much you love your wife. I know this is going to be very hard for you. The only thing you can do is take it a day at a time to start with, then later a minute at a time.

It seems to me that dementia is becoming far more common than it once was, and I have no idea why. It isn't just because people are older. There seems to be something else causing more cases, but what I don't know. Sometimes it helps a person with dementia to realize they are just one of millions. She is not alone.

My father had mixed dementia. My mother also may have early dementia, but she is undiagnosed. My father never spoke about his loss of memory with me until a month or two before he died. My mother recognizes that her memory is very bad, but she gets angry if I want to make an appointment with a neurologist. She confesses that she probably has some dementia, but she doesn't want a diagnosis of it. I don't let this worry me, because the drugs they have for it now MAY help with some of the symptoms, but cannot slow the progression of dementia if it is Alzheimer's. However, it would be better to know what type of dementia it might be. If it is vascular dementia, medications and diet can be used to slow the progression.

What I hope for you is that the problem your wife is having is not Alz. If it is, what we hope for is a gentler course. I know you have a long journey in front of you. There is a lot of support out there for people with dementia. And this is the best place to come to vent. I like this group because we don't have to put on our Sunday clothes to write here.
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Hi Phil. I am so sorry you are going through this. In my limited experience with dementia/alzheimers it is common for the people who are suffering to not admit/recognize that there is any wrong with their mind. My mom (who has been in assisted living for 3 weeks) told her Nurse Practitioner "My mind is better than yours" when the NP was talking to her about memory problems and the reasons she was in assisted living. Even when Mom has a really bad night, she brushes it off as a physical problem (and she really has no physical problems). Make sure you take care of yourself and know when you need to ask from help from others. Assisted living has been God send to me and my brother. Now we know she is getting the care that she needs. I wish you and your family the very best.
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