Beginning The Journey


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Just popping in
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My mother is 80. She has just been diagnosed with "advanced aging" by a neurologist who refused to call it dementia because it is "an old-fashioned term" according to him. My sister and I don't know what to think. All we know is that she doesn't have Alzheimers. We don't know what to do and are feeling our way through in this situation slowly and painfully. Mother has increasingly displayed symptoms of dementia. She lives in a town an hour away from the city in which my sister and I live. She refuses to move closer to us. We are so worried. Last Christmas, she got lost on her way to my place. I have lived here 15 years and she has driven the route many times. Her short-term memory is extremely restricted. There are many other symptoms. One minute, she is calling my sister or myself asking for our help in handling certain things for her and the next minute, she is extremely unhappy with us and accuses us of trying to control her life. She is easily agitated and more and more paranoid as time goes on. She is still fairly high-functioning in basic areas such as driving around the town she lives in, paying bills, making deposits, going to church, etc. She knows she has a "little bit of a memory problem" but feels my sister and I are greatly exaggerating her situation. She is currently taking Aricept which the neurologist prescribed but it's still too soon to tell if it will work for her. We have tried to discuss her situation with her (in a kind and caring manner) but she became very upset and accused us of thinking she was "crazy". In fact, she repeats this "you think I'm crazy" accusation quite a bit. We try to stay out of arguing with her but sometimes she is determined to turn a discussion into a fight and we are the bad guys. What's the best way to deal with her agitation? Do we just smile and agree with everything? HELP!!!!

Posted on 2002/11/30 1:31


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Dear LK:

Thanks for visiting ElderHope.

We normally reply within 24 hours but Barb and I have been out of town on our honeymoon.

Anyway, I am dead tired, just wanted to check e-mails before sleeping and saw your post.

Barb is really the Alzheimer's Disease (AD) / dementia "expert", so I'm sure she'll reply as soon as she can.

I can't imagine the pain you are experiencing.

It sounds like you could be getting better advice and support from the physician, along with a more thorough workup. Dementia is not an "old fashioned term." You state that your mother doesn't have Alzheimer's Disease. Did the physician tell you she didn't have AD? A physician should clarify what KIND of dementia is going on, and then, communicate that diagnosis clearly to patient and caregivers. It does not sound like either of those things was done for you: First, you say she does not have AD, BUT the doctor has her on Aricept which specifically treats AD. Nor, does the physician seem inclined to narrow down the kind of dementia that she does have, if she doesn't have AD. So, the diagnosis seems very unclear, as you have explained it. This will only weaken your position in trying to get the best care for your mother.

The things you describe DO sound like some form of dementia. The nature of the dementia NEEDS to be clarified for all of you. I trust, also, that you are willing to really hear the diagnosis, even if it is hard to hear. No good plan for her care can be made without embracing all the facts of her condition.

What you are going through is the hardest thing adult children have to do, I do believe. Depending on what you learn about her diagnosis, you will need to determine how much risk she poses to herself and others, and, based on that, how long you will allow her to drive, live by herself, take her own medications, etc. When it reaches certain points, you and your sister and her physician will need to take steps to either legally relieve her of her decision-making power in these matters, or talk her into relinquishing them.

The thing I think I hear the most in your post is the pain of witnessing her become someone you don't really know, and someone who clearly doesn't really know or trust you anymore.


One minute, she is calling my sister or myself asking for our help in handling certain things for her and the next minute, she is extremely unhappy with us and accuses us of trying to control her life. She is easily agitated and more and more paranoid as time goes on.

As to your specific question about her agitation, again, a clearer diagnosis is essential. The different dementias each have different nuances that may escalate the level of agitation. Her agitation is most likely PART of the dementia. This probably includes her paranoia and anger at you and your sister.

Write us back, if you like, with your further thoughts and questions.

And, please, be gentle to yourself :P

Posted on 2002/12/2 0:47

normal Dementia

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Quite a regular
From: Rowlett
Posts: 56
Dear LK,
I really want to "ditto" everything that Mike said in his reply to you . . . plus just a few other things -
If your mother is taking Aricept, her symptoms may not seem to be dramatically different while on the medication, but it may still be slowing the progression of her disease process and resulting symptoms. It's important that she stay on the mediction unless told to stop by her physician.
Also, regarding your main question about the best way to deal with her agitation and "do we smile and agree with everything?", my reply is, "It depends." First, try to remember that rational thinking and logical reasoning probably won't have a positive effect when talking with your mother. Many times, trying to 'reason' with a person who has dementia will only result in more agitation and confusion. These are the times that simple, one word replies may be best. Other times, it may be most helpful to simply walk away from your mother before a full-blown argument ensues. Have you contacted the Alzheimer's Association in your mother's community yet? They have a boatload of resources available, including free pamphlets and brochures, on how to deal with agitation and other behavioral concerns that persons with dementia may exhibit. Also, check out their website,, for online information. Although there is no one right way to deal with agitation and aggression with persons who have dementia, generally speaking, keeping it simple and not arguing will be most effective.
As Mike stated, "dementia" is not an outdated term, but relates to the many behavioral, emotional, physical and cognitive results of the effects on the brain from the disease process of Alzheimer's disease, etc.
However, it's important to know what's the probable cause of your mother's dementia . . . her doctor should be able to give you some answers after a thorough evaluation.
Lastly, watch your mother's driving and see if you begin noticing any changes in her driving - be aware of "fender-benders" or shopping trips that take much longer than they should - maybe because of forgetting her way back home, etc.
Sure hope this helps . . . and let us know how things are coming along with your mother . . . AND, take care of yourself in the process!

Posted on 2002/12/4 9:08

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