Alzheimer`s Disease/Mom's Alzheimers
My mother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's 4 years ago. She is 82 years old but I don't believe she has ever accepted the Alzheimer's label. Last night for the first time she expressed to me how she wants to be able to do things like she could before and how she was in pain. The pain I believe is arthritis and I give her Tylenol. She was crying and this is rare. She is very weak, doesn't eat much and last two weeks has not been able to stay up long during the day. I do not know how much she is up in the night.
Do you think she may be depressed and what medicine do you suggest? She lives with my 88 year old father who spends his time sleeping as well. Thank you for your time!
Hi Erica, I'm in Ontario as well. Your mom is lucky she still has some self awareness - most people with Alzheimers can't accept the diagnosis because they genuinely can't see what is apparent to you. They think that the strange things that seem to be happening to them are caused by other people - for example, if they are misplacing items because they are forgetful, they will think someone has been moving their things around or stealing from them. They can't recognize their own deficits and reason through that it must be due to their own confusion or memory issues. My mother in law couldn't even look at dirty clothing and realize it was dirty, or believe that she needed a bath. She thought we were being mean and were crazy and that she was perfectly fine, even when she was getting lost in her apartment building.
You don't mention what medications she is on, or if she is being seen by her family doctor alone, or by a dementia specialist. Most people with Alzheimer's can benefit from combination therapy involving drugs like aricept and namenda together. It doesn't cure the illness, but it slows it down, and thus preserves function and quality of life for longer. As you note, people with Alzheimer's will also frequently experience anxiety and depression. They realize at some level their lives are not the same, and they are experiencing many problems with every day tasks, and it can be very upsetting. Imagine what it's like to go through a day for your mum. Everything must seem a confusing jumble, no matter how hard she tries, and trying to cope must be exhausting.
Your family doctor or the specialist can assess what medication might be good to try, given what other medications she might be on, and what other health issues she may have. Often drugs like zoloft work well - but again, that is something to discuss with her doctor or medical team. A lot of times, you have to be patient because it can be trial and error. What works for one person won't necessarily work for another. So, you try what is suggested at various doses and see if it helps - and if it doesn't, you try something else.
I am a bit concerned though when you say she is living with your 88 year old father. This does not sound like a good situation if they are living alone. An 88 year old man cannot be expected to provide the supports and supervision she likely needs to keep her safe and healthy and active, and she may well be keeping him up at night - and I know you know, she will need more and more assistance with time. It's not uncommon for people with Alzheimers to get disoriented at night and mix up their nights and days. I hope you have plans to either have someone live with them (whether family or live in help) or have them move in with relatives or into a situation where they have help available 24/7. Even a full time housekeeper who comes in days would be a big help to your dad. Sometimes you can coax elderly parents to accept that kind of help by spinning it as something for you even if they think it's silly and unnecessary.
She needs someone to be coaxing her eat, and offering meals and snacks frequently. People with dementia are not that good at knowing when they are hungry or thirsty, and it's very easy for them to become dehydrated and for their weight to start to spiral down dramatically, which is dangerous for their overall health. They also develop coordination problems with chewing and swallowing that makes it very hard for them to eat regular foods that might require a lot of chewing or have a mixed texture, like crunchy cereal with milk on it. If she's losing weight and weak, I'd be alarmed, and I'd be talking to the doctor about the situation.
Someone with her during the day could also be keeping her busy and moving around so she sleeps better at night and make sure she is bathing and carrying out other routine tasks for her own wellbeing.
I know this is really rough to deal with, and my heart goes out to you. You love them and you want the best for them without taking away their independence. Health and safety have to be your first consideration. Your dads real job is to love her.
Thinking of you.