It is a rare and difficult attainment to grow old gracefully and happily.
Lydia Maria Francis Child
Part 1: How can you tell if it's really dementia?
My parents were happy when my mother came home from the rehab center in July. My dad had been lonely at home alone and my mother was unhappy with the food and boredom at the rehab center and imagined that she'd be happier at home. Sadly, there are significant issues that make happiness difficult to achieve and even harder to sustain. Both of my parents have some type of cognitive decline/dementia. What this means is that neither of our parents are highly functioning enough to be the caregiver. Both have short term memory loss, behavioral issues related to cognitive decline, and emotional issues. Sometimes, these symptoms are minimal and sometimes they're more troublesome. What it boils down to, is two people who love each other and want to live together, but often find that they annoy each other. What to do?
Here's one take on the subject, When Both Parents Have Dementia.
Dad and Dementia
My dad's situation is less medically complicated than my mom's, so I'll start with it. My father has been experiencing memory loss, confusion, and inappropriate behavior since about 2009. It only became really obvious in December, 2009, when he was completely confused and exhausted at Christmas. My sister dealt with the immediate crisis and I came home in late December and took over caregiving, while my dad began to recuperate. At first, he was so exhausted and confused that he didn't really want to be involved with Mom's care. In 2011, his condition was discovered to be complicated by internal bleeding, vitamin deficiency, and exhaustion. Once his bleeding ulcer was treated and he began taking Vitamin D and Vitamin B, he stabilized. He still had memory loss and confusion issues; however, he was more able to function on a day-to-day basis and slowly became able - with help - to continue his caregiving role with Mom. However, he still experiences frustrations from confusion that can lead to angry outbursts and poor judgment.
Mom and Dementia
Mom's possible dementia is a much trickier situation. Officially, I believe that she's been diagnosed with dementia. However, she's on a potent mixture of medications for chronic pain, high blood pressure and depression. Furthermore, Mom was recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism and has had low sodium levels. Any one of these things could lead to a false diagnosis of dementia. Taken together, I believe that a "true" diagnosis would be difficult to make. (Of course, I could be wrong.) Read the links below, to see information on the different sources of my mother's confusion.
The ultimate problem is that my mom has a number of conditions that could either mimic dementia or make already existing dementia worse. As my doctor would say, "it's multi-factorial." In other words, it may be six of one and half a dozen of the other. This makes it even harder to decide what to do.
Next time: Should my parents get a diagnosis and use preventative medication or not?