Q: Dear Regina, My uncle is starting to forget where he puts things and then later find them in odd places like his keys in the freezer or putting his wallet in a box of oatmeal. I just do not know what makes him put them there. My worry is this may be a warning sign. I talked to his daughter and she didn’t seem to have any concerns. She stated we do strange things when we get older and that she herself forgets things too. It just happens. I am not sure if I should be worried or not but if it is something to look into, how can I get my cousin to take it serious?
A: Yes this is a warning sign for your uncle and possibly your cousin. To help his daughter understand you may need to keep a record of the concern with dates of changes that you noticed. If you have a record already it’s good information for a doctor to say more testing should be done to find what is causing the changes. It is possible that the changes can be reversible so it is good to find out what is causing the changes. The Facebook St. Lucia Alzheimer’s Association has a link to download a form that will help you communicate with the doctor about the changes. The earlier we check why the symptoms are there, the greater your chances to reverse symptoms. Ignoring them increases your risk to developing Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia. It does take a while to get diagnosed for a cause of the symptoms. I recommend helping him to do things that stimulate thinking that he likes to do. Strengthening his memory and mind will also help him feel better.
It is challenging for other family members to accept there are changes happening to a loved one. Having a log of incidents will help outline your concern. Ask them to help with monitoring. If able to, ask your uncle to see what you have noticed and that you are worried and would like him to see a doctor to see what medications he is on which could be causing it (if he has medications); if he has a hormonal imbalance; vitamin deficiency or infection. These all can be causes of the symptoms.
Q: Dear Regina, Is it normal for people with dementia to be so rude? My mom has never been this way and she has become sharp with her tongue and cursing. This is not my mom, she has never been like this I hate this disease! She sometimes says mean and rude things without being provoked. She does it to family and strangers. How do you deal with this?
A: I am so sorry and know how hard this is. It is different for everyone but yes, some people living with dementia do have personality changes as part of their symptoms. Not everyone experiences these symptoms in the same pattern. However it is common. The frontal lobe controls our filter and with dementia this part gets damaged. Coping with this is heart-breaking, exhausting and embarrassing at times.
To cope with it does take patience and there are a few things to consider that may help decrease the outburst for some people. Pay attention to:
The time of day it starts (looking for a pattern); what happened prior to the verbal rudeness (even with strangers, If she was not happy about something prior to her engagement with a stranger she will lash out at anyone). What are the rude things about? Is it about the way someone looks, their clothes?
If you are aware of some of these things it will help you predict when she will react and you can guide her away from the situation. This does take skill and practice. Also, in public make a cute note about your mom’s condition and hand it to the server so you do not have to explain in front of your mom. It is good to let the server know ahead of time that your mom has a condition called dementia and to please excuse her behaviour. Also you can start looking for purple angel logos in some restaurants, stores and businesses that are friendly and have some knowledge about dementia.
Last but not least, make sure you are getting a break from caregiving.
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