Alzheimer`s Disease/Dementia?

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Question
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.

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

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.

Thanks

JoAnne

Answer
Hello JoAnne:  I'm very sorry to hear of your current issues with your step mother.  I'm sure it's extremely frustrating to you.  It does sound as if it could be dementia because that can be typical behavior for a person with dementia.  Those behaviors and beliefs could also be caused by other things that could potentially be fixed, such as a tumor in the brain, or some metabolic imbalances.  I think it's important she be evaluated by a neurologist or a geriatrician and have the blood tests and cognitive tests that can rule out everything but dementia.  I don't believe it would do any good to try to reason with her, but rather reason with your father.  He needs to know this could potentially be treatable, and if it does turn out to be dementia, then getting started on medication could help to slow the progression of the dementia, as well as helping to prepare the family.  It doesn't sound like something that will just get better, and in fact, will likely get worse, so his denying a problem will only make his life more stressful in the end.  Another consideration for you is to be sure someone else in the family (besides his wife) has POA for him in the event of his death or disability.  I'm sure it would be a disaster if she were trying to make those decisions and she was found to have dementia.  You may try avoiding her since she's focusing her anger or anxiety on you.  I'm afraid I don't have much else to offer you, but I strongly encourage you to convince your father to have her evaluated because both his and her future rests on the outcome.  I wish you much luck JoAnne as you try to maintain your relationship with your father and his wife.  Cindy Keith

Alzheimer`s Disease

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Cindy Keith, RN, BS, Certified Dementia Practitioner

Expertise

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.

Experience

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.

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

Publications
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"

Education/Credentials
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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