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Alzheimer`s Disease/Concern about step mother

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Question
Ms. Daamgaard: I am worried that my step mother may be in the early or middle stages of dementia, although she hasn't been evaluated or diagnosed. I'd like to get your thoughts on how to help her and my dad, considering that they live 200 miles away. I visit once a month and talk with them on the phone nearly every day.

The situation: She and my dad have been married nearly 20 years and I go along really well with her for most of that time. Eight or nine months ago she suddenly started making wildly irrational accusations about me. For example she has accused me of trying to sell the house "out from under" them; going into the house while they are gone and stealing things (Knickknacks that I didn't want in  the first place); and trying to sabotage my dad's medical care.

Would it do any good to try to reason with her? (For example, "why would I want to sell your house? That wouldn't benefit me.")

My dad is OK mentally but frail physically and can't deal with this. He denies there is anything wrong with her.

She has hidden or gotten rid of everything I have given my dad - pictures, mementoes, some things that I gave him before he even knew her. So far, I am the only one in her large extended family who has seen this behavior. She is fairly normal around everyone else.

Any thoughts you have on this would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

JoAnne

Answer
Hi JoAnne,

First thing I would suggest is NOT to reason with her. It won't work and she'll end up resenting you more.

Second, does she have a doctor she goes to regularly? If so I would write him/her a letter expressing your concerns. (Realizing that the doctor won't be able to talk to you unless she ok'd it. If you go with her to the doctor and into the exam room with her he can!) She should be given a thorough physical exam to make sure there isn't anything else that could be affecting her. Low blood sugar, thyroid functions off, vitamin B12, or even tumors. Hopefully her doctor will be astute enough to do this work up without saying JoAnne wrote me a letter....

Once that is done and there are no reasons for her behavior then I would suggest taking her to a neurologist or a geriatrician who specializes in dementia care.

Do you think she only takes it out on you because you see them the most? Are you your father's only child? That could be why you are getting picked on.

I hope she'll go to the doctor. I know my mom wouldn't just go. We had to trick her. Told her she'd get paid as part of a research trial. Lying is ok if it sounds reasonable!

Good luck
Paula

Alzheimer`s Disease

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Paula Damgaard

Expertise

I can offer families and caregivers non-diagnostic answers to questions regarding the disease. I travel around the state giving courses on Alzheimer`s disease for nurses and CNA`s.

Experience


Past/Present clients
I have coordinated Alzheimer's Clinical drug trials since 1987. I have coordinated the Memory Disorders Clinic since it's inception 1994. I also have personnal experience from caring for my mother who died of AD 5/2000 and presently from caring for my mother in law who was diagnosed in March 2000.

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