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G-ma with memory problems

Hi,

I’ve been a lurker on this site, and have never posted before.  I’m hoping you all can give me some honest advice. (sorry in advance if this is too long)


My FIL’s mom has been having memory problems for the past year.  At first it wasn’t anything too serious, but recently it has gotten quite bad.  She was living in AZ, and we (FIL, MIL, DH, and I) live in MI.  When the memory thing started she started talking about either her moving up here or all of us moving down there.  In the end she was refusing to move up and we for one reason or another could not move down.


Well, time passed and her sister who live a few blocks away had a stroke.  Her sister then decided to move in with her son in CA.  At this point GMIL realized she was having memory problems and knew living alone in AZ when her family was in MI wasn’t going to work.  So she put her house up for sale and told us she wanted to move up here.  Now at first she wanted to buy a duplex and have DH and me move in on the otherside.  At first we thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea, but she kept forgetting she had decided this and state she was never going to move.  


Well, she called the week before Memorial Weekend saying she couldn’t be alone in AZ anymore and someone needed to come get her.  FIL and MIL flew down on Memorial Weekend.  MIL flew back with GMIL and FIL is driving her car back to MI.  (He should be back tomorrow)  However, since her memory is so bad now MIL didn’t want to leave her alone all day while she was at work.  Since I work at night and am free during the day she asked if I could sit with GMIL while FIL is traveling back. (FIL works from home, so after he’s back he’ll be with her during the day)  I agreed to do it.


I sat with her yesterday, and she told me that she was scared.  I tried my best to help reassure her.  Today, she was even worse.  She told me she couldn’t wait to get back home (the house in AZ has been sold already).  She also says she feels lost and no one is telling her what the plan is.  (I know FIL and MIL have talked to her about it, but she doesn’t remember)  She is getting angry (not at me though), and wants answers.  I honestly don’t blame her, she’s scared and doesn’t know what’s happening.


We think she might have dementia/Alzheimer’s and we are worried what would happen if she lived on her own.  We want to get her evaluated so that we can figure out the best solution for her.  FIL does have power of attorney now, but he is not making any decisions without consulting her.  


My question is: Has anyone have experience with this and how can we help her adjust?  I’m literally at a loss as how to help her.

Re: G-ma with memory problems

  • I'm so sorry to hear about this. I do have past experience with family members who had dementia, but I was young enough then that I wasn't involved in the legal aspects of their short-term or long-term care. I only can tell you that it definitely sounds like something is wrong, and that, sadly, you will need to emotionally prepare yourself, because she's not going to get any better.

    With my family members the dementia fell into one of two categories:

    1. The happy kind - you're not sure who anybody is, but that's okay because it's always nice to make new friends!

    2. The paranoid kind - you're not sure who anybody is, but you're fairly certain that they're out to get you one way or another.

    It may be too early to tell if your GMIL has the paranoid kind, or if she's only reacting this way because on some level she senses what's happening to her, and it's only natural that she would be scared half to death about it. But in any case, there are a couple of small things you can do that might at least take the edge off, while her symptoms are still early.

    If and when she forgets about something that's just happened, or maybe forgets how to do something, continue to be gentle and encouraging when giving her reminders. In the case of forgetting how to do a task, try to be patient and don't act alarmed; maybe she'll remember how to do it the next time. In the case of forgetting a conversation, you may be able to remind her at first, but as her symptoms get worse it may not be worth it because she could get more easily upset and argumentative. That will be a judgment call on your part.

    When you have time to sit with her, show her family photo albums and scrapbooks if you have them. See if you can get her to talk about the good times she remembers. Ask her the stories behind certain pictures. Activities like this don't stop dementia, but they promote a sense of security and family that helps make things easier.

    Same thing with her favorite songs. I've heard stories about advanced dementia patients who couldn't tell you what they just ate for dinner five minutes ago, but if you put a certain record on they'll light up like a Christmas tree and sing the whole thing by heart. Good for the memory and good for the soul.

    Unfortunately I think you'll have to have a discussion with your in-laws VERY soon about where she's going to live, because it sounds like the time will come shortly that she definitely can't be left alone. Is there a community center or resource through the doctors who can talk with you about what to expect when it comes time to move her somewhere? Someone who can discuss your options with you after she's been evaluated?

    I wish you the best of luck during this hard time. Dunno if it's much comfort at this point, but you're being a good granddaughter so far by just being there and listening to her when she has these episodes. I know it's hard to watch.
    CJ12211
  • edited May 2014
    CJ12211 said:
    Hi,

    I’ve been a lurker on this site, and have never posted before.  I’m hoping you all can give me some honest advice. (sorry in advance if this is too long)


    My FIL’s mom has been having memory problems for the past year.  At first it wasn’t anything too serious, but recently it has gotten quite bad.  She was living in AZ, and we (FIL, MIL, DH, and I) live in MI.  When the memory thing started she started talking about either her moving up here or all of us moving down there.  In the end she was refusing to move up and we for one reason or another could not move down.


    Well, time passed and her sister who live a few blocks away had a stroke.  Her sister then decided to move in with her son in CA.  At this point GMIL realized she was having memory problems and knew living alone in AZ when her family was in MI wasn’t going to work.  So she put her house up for sale and told us she wanted to move up here.  Now at first she wanted to buy a duplex and have DH and me move in on the otherside.  At first we thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea, but she kept forgetting she had decided this and state she was never going to move.  


    Well, she called the week before Memorial Weekend saying she couldn’t be alone in AZ anymore and someone needed to come get her.  FIL and MIL flew down on Memorial Weekend.  MIL flew back with GMIL and FIL is driving her car back to MI.  (He should be back tomorrow)  However, since her memory is so bad now MIL didn’t want to leave her alone all day while she was at work.  Since I work at night and am free during the day she asked if I could sit with GMIL while FIL is traveling back. (FIL works from home, so after he’s back he’ll be with her during the day)  I agreed to do it.


    I sat with her yesterday, and she told me that she was scared.  I tried my best to help reassure her.  Today, she was even worse.  She told me she couldn’t wait to get back home (the house in AZ has been sold already).  She also says she feels lost and no one is telling her what the plan is.  (I know FIL and MIL have talked to her about it, but she doesn’t remember)  She is getting angry (not at me though), and wants answers.  I honestly don’t blame her, she’s scared and doesn’t know what’s happening.


    We think she might have dementia/Alzheimer’s and we are worried what would happen if she lived on her own.  We want to get her evaluated so that we can figure out the best solution for her.  FIL does have power of attorney now, but he is not making any decisions without consulting her.  


    My question is: Has anyone have experience with this and how can we help her adjust?  I’m literally at a loss as how to help her.
    Did she get to a physician when the memory loss began?

    Docs need to rule out other causes --- drug interactions, brain related masses, to name a couple, before they come up with dementia as a conclusive diagnosis.

    If her memory problem is tough to cope with, she needs an aide or companion to stay with her during the day --- they have "daycare" facilities for clients with dementia.

    If she can't take care of herself or her husband can't, or if she is a danger to herself, she'll need assisted living.

    Being the sole caretaker for a close family member is not easy. Her husband is going to need help; it is taxing emotionally as well as physically.
  • CJ12211CJ12211 member
    Name Dropper First Comment
    @TarponMonoxide

    GMIL's Husband died over a decade ago, so she was truly alone in AZ.  Her next of kin is my FIL.  She did not have a primary care doctor, and she did not believe anything was wrong.  However now that she's up here and is aware something is wrong we're trying to find a doctor so she can be looked at.  Honestly I hope it's not dementia.  We're waiting for a doctor's diagnosis before the final decision is made.

    I'd like to thank everyone for their advice.  Yesterday was a much better day.  GMIL shared many stories of her growing up and raising her son (FIL).  We were laughing, and having a great time.  She also asked me a lot about my family since she's never met them.
  • Your GMIL most likely has dementia. What you are describing are very classic signs. What you and your family need to do is get some education and a game plan. I am sorry to be harsh, but it is very important you realize the reality of the situation.

    It's not easy, but if you can't be with her 24/7, it's best to get her placed in an AL sooner than later. Many families try to keep their loved ones at home for as long as possible, and while I understand their reasoning, it is a much smoother transition if they remember having some say in the transition. Just my personal experience. Good luck to you.
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