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Alzheimer`s Disease/Colonoscopy for moderate alzheimer's patient?


My mother is 77 with Primary Progressive Aphasia and probable Alzheimer's. She's living at home, emotionally present, loves going to the theatre and doing crafts. We have a lot of fun and laughter, though she is definitely progressing. She had two very mild (she didn't even know she had it) incidents if shingles within 6 months and her primary care doctor recommended mammogram and colonoscopy to rule out any underlying immune system supressing diseases. We scheduled her for the colonoscopy but now I'm wondering if the risk of the anesthesia worsening her cognitive function is worth the screening? It seems so slim, the chance of colon cancer -- no family history, no anemia, no bowel distress. I asked about doing a stool sample instead and he said that wouldn't be worth much. He keeps saying the question is whether we would want to treat it if there is cancer but I'm stuck in the question of whether the test would do more harm than good? Thanks.

Hello Alexandra:  You ask a very valid question and I'm glad to hear you are being a good advocate for your dear mother.  I think it's important for you to try to ascertain what your mother's wishes would be--maybe you could ask her "Mom, if you were told you had a lump in your breast that might be a cancer, what would you want to do about it?"  Once you have an idea of what she would want, you can make your decisions.  I'm not sure what the doctor's next move would be if he found an underlying immune system disease, but unless she's been having trouble with catching every little bug that comes along, I would be hesitant to think it's an immune system issue.  If this were my mother, I would be asking the same questions--would I pursue aggressive treatment/surgery if they found something in the bowel?  That prep is awful for an elderly person, and it could easily lead to dehydration and more confusion, and then there is the conscious sedation that's given for the procedure.  Anything that impacts the brain has the potential to make her confusion worse and you can only hope it's temporary.  The mammogram, as I'm sure you know, is very uncomfortable, and if any suspicious area were found, would you put her through biopsy?  I know it's not easy to be making these decisions Alexandra, but try to keep in mind what she would want, along with the discomfort/pain/confusion that would result from any testing as opposed to any benefit.  I wish you luck Alexandra as you continue to walk with your mother on her journey through dementia.  Take care.  Cindy

Alzheimer`s Disease

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Cindy Keith, RN, BS, Certified Dementia Practitioner


As a nurse and dementia consultant, I can answer most questions on all types of dementia. If I cannot answer your question, I will attempt to find someone who can. My passion is to help caregivers of people with dementia, which in turn helps all those wonderful elders with dementia live better lives. When caregivers are better educated, they are able to better care for themselves and their loved ones, so education is key to decreased stress levels and healthier, happier families.


I have worked as a nurse in various disciplines of nursing for over 20 years, most of which was with the elderly. I was a health care coordinator in a dementia dedicated assisted living facility for 4 years before I started my own business (M.I.N.D. in Memory Care) as a dementia consultant six years ago. As a dementia consultant, I help families nationwide through phone conference calls as they struggle to care for their loved ones with dementia.

Alzheimer's Foundation of America Geriatric Interest Network Sigma Theta Tau International

Published "Love, Laughter, & Mayhem - Caregiver Survival Manual For Living With A Person With Dementia" which is a collection of stories about people with dementia I have known, loved and worked with. Every story has a lesson to teach and this book gently teaches family caregivers lessons about how to better care for their loved one, as well as themselves during their caregiving journey. Published "Love, Laughter, & Mayhem In Eldercare Facilities: The Master Key For Dementia Training" Created "Bringing Nurturing To Memory Care" staff dementia training video Created Ebook: "Hair Stylist's Helpful Tips For Working With People With Alzheimer's & Other Dementias"

Registered Nurse with Bachelor's degree in Nursing; Certified Dementia Practitioner; Author of 2 books and an ebook

Awards and Honors
Sigma Theta Tau National Honor Society of Nursing

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