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Possible undiagnosed Autism? OCD? in 88yr old MIL

(16 Posts)
evrybuddy Wed 07-Sep-16 16:05:20

Anyone else come across this sort of thing?
MIL has always been awkward, extremely pedantic, very inward, me me, me sort of a person.

For example, I took her to a hospital appointment yesterday and I was talking to another old lady in queue. Old lady was talking about cataracts generally.
MIL interrupts... I had my cataracts done in Harley Street ....
Her conversation generally consist of sentences beginning with 'I'... and often could be construed as bragging - which we're used to but disconcerts many other people.

MIL is entirely unaware of it - at least seems so, not consciously in any case, not a reflective person but didn't have education beyond 14.

Other morning she was very dozy. I asked did you take any (sleeping) pills last night?
No, she said.
What about this morning? I asked.
I had one about two o clock she replied.
Is 2am not last night?
This is very common with her - pedantry over dates, seasons etc

She lived a very solitary life (by choice) as full-time housewife and mum of one for fifty years. Husband didn't want her to work and she wasn't bothered.

She seemed to pass through life quietly, agreeing with people and seeming 'normal' because of that.

Her husband died about 20 years ago and since then she's been forced to look out a bit more and now the 'Me'isms are much more apparent. Before, the husband did most of the talking.

It's very difficult communicating with her. Seems to live in a fantasy world most of the time but then did spend 50 years reading Mills and Boon every afternoon.

Has drinks only at fixed times every day but couldn't explain why and couldn't vary - isn't consciously aware of this behaviour.

Has ascribed various fixed times to pill taking every day for no discernible reason. If you ask her why, she generally ignores the question.
Undoubtedly these routines help her remember but they are (visibly) increasingly dominating her life and she's unable to vary them in response to changes in circumstances - such as being out when a pill is due at 10 am according to her timetable but 'once daily' according to the box.

I don't think there's anything we can do about it - I'm just looking for comfort in the knowledge that maybe others have experienced this too.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 07-Sep-16 16:12:11

I found that my tolerance of MIL's obsessiveness became much greater when I decided she is probably just a bit Aspie. Not least because it made me see that she has some of the classic autistic virtues such as loyalty and honesty, and that when she has behaved a tiny bit unreasonably it is because she is assuming other people are as straightforward as she is.
There must be so many people who would have been diagnosed if they were from a younger generation, and while it is probably very dodgy to go around jumping to conclusions like this, I have honestly found it has helped our relationship.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 07-Sep-16 16:15:50

What you describe with the pills sounds very like a younger friend of mine who has just had a diagnosis as an adult - she talks about getting stressed if she runs out of food on a day that isn't the one she has designated as food shopping day even though she could perfectly well go shopping any time she wants.

iPost Wed 07-Sep-16 16:16:04

Anyone else come across this sort of thing?

Not those specific sorts of behavoirs. But I have come across undiagnosed issues in older and middle aged people.

It's not uncommon for people from previous generations to have been left undiagnosed. And there is only really the impetus for a diagnosis in later life if life becomes whatever they have causes obvious difficulties.

For example

I have had ADHD my whole life. Only got diagnosed this summer (at 48) when an event knocked my self built coping (and coving up the not coping) skills for six.

Late MIL was diagnosed with severe bipolar 1 in her sixties. She'd been in an out of psych. hospitals since the age of 21, there was a history of acts and behavoirs consistent with MH issues well before that. It was only after an event triggered rather more florid than usual psychosis that she saw a much younger doc and finally got diagnosed.

So yes, it is entirely possible that your MIL has something with a name, but missed the boat on diagnosis in her youth, due to the stage medicine was at back then, and further on down the line she was able to cope with a life style that her condition didn't leave her floundering to manage.

WhoKnowsWhereTheTimeG0es Wed 07-Sep-16 16:41:01

Yes, I realised recently that my DM would probably meet the diagnostic criteria for Asperger's Syndrome. Which I should have realised a long time ago as my 12yo DS has it and I've been very aware of how it manifests itself for 10 years or so. I haven't really processed this fully yet to be honest, but it really does explain an awful lot.

evrybuddy Thu 08-Sep-16 07:34:14

Thanks all - we are not alone!

We haven't really had any contact with Autism/Aspergers in our own lives so we're largely interpreting the MiL's behaviour through the wonderful diagnostic medium of reality television - it's not perfect - but what can you do?

I like to picture myslef turning up (again) at the GP, going yes, it's not about her stroke, it's not about her crazy blood pressure, her limited mobility, her arthritis - none of those things... but I'm worried she's autistic... what can you do for her? She's only 88.

The nearest we've come to a match with her behaviour is on a tv programme about a young girl with Pathological Demand Avoidance

The girl was pre-teen but the behaviour issues matched so closely with MiL it was uncanny.

Of course, having a 'name' for anything isn't half as useful to us as it would be to a priest performing an exorcism smile but it certainly feels better - although of course, we'll never know for sure.

I don't think the NHS is chucking resources at diagnosing autism in the elderly - for now - who knows what the future holds?

The care homes of the future will be very different places - and not only for the tattoos. wink

AdelindSchade Thu 08-Sep-16 07:42:20

There was something going on with my late father that I could never quite pin down. I posted about him on here and some said autism and others said personality disorder. Could have been a bit of both I suppose. Sometimes these traits do get more pronounced with age or are more noticeable if previous coping mechanisms break down for whatever reason.

CMOTDibbler Thu 08-Sep-16 07:50:58

She's 88 - these types of behaviour are very, very common in this age group as the ability to have 'flexibility of thinking' reduces and any cognitive decline means that sticking to very rigid routines is important as it helps them make everything work.
One of the things I noticed with my mum (developed dementia from her early 60's) and dad (in his early stages at 79) early on in their dementia was the interest in only talking about what they wanted, and not being able to shift them from it (and this was totally not a trait of mums).

Needmoresleep Thu 08-Sep-16 10:31:24

Two things.

Charactistics which might once have been relatively well hidden become more pronounced as a world shrinks, there is more involvement in routine stuff by outsiders and the ability to hide oddities is lost.

Ageing seems to be childhood in reverse so people seem to regress to toddler behaviour, which involves a focus on themselves and a lack of empathy or interest in others.

That said, ageing parents are an opportunity to reevaluate a parent and a childhood. A few years back I had a bit of a light bulb moment when on a Committee (never again!) with someone I found very difficult. Others agreed she was difficult but ignored her. I found myself seeking approval, which led effectively to me being bullied, until I realised this woman's behaviour was much like my mum's and that the issues I had were as much of my own making. I read up on the relevevent label and was better equipped to handle my mother's behaviour, and my own reaction to it, which was really useful when the crisis kicked off. Whatever spectrum your MiL may be on (and we are all on different spectrums) , there is probably not much you can do about it, other than accept it, work round it, and use that acceptance as a way of minimising your own emotional response.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Thu 08-Sep-16 10:39:46

OP I don't think you would find any additional help as a result of her getting diagnosed, even in the unlikely event that you managed it. But for me the value of the label is that it gives you ideas of where to look in trying to manage the behaviour and understand what is going on in her head.
This has been useful for me with my 9yo son, who went through autism diagnosis and they finally decided he hadn't (he was over the threshold on the ADOS test but not on their observations). But in a way it didn't matter whether or not they decided to attach the label to him - the usefulness has been that when his behaviour does strongly resemble that of children with autism I can draw on tips, strategies and sometimes products that work for them. It also speeds up communication with other people - you can say 'Have you worked with children with aspergers? Try using that approach' and they immediately get it.

Cabrinha Thu 08-Sep-16 10:48:27

Speaking only on the part about talking about themselves all the time, I have noticed this increase with age in several elderly relatives.

Both XPIL (now divorced so separately) were avid skiers, and when I told them that their adored grandchild had learned to ski in <place they once went in the summer 20 years ago> wittered on about their trip. Neglecting to ask a single thing about their grandchild learning to ski. Which you'd think would be interesting to them!

It's definitely increased with age. Whether they no longer give a fuck for social nicety, or for declining cognitive reasons stick to what they know, I don't know. But it's definitely an old age (80s) shift in them.

NotCitrus Thu 08-Sep-16 10:54:19

I've definitely noticed an increase in this with my parents, going off on a train of thought and the whole back-and-forth of conversation doesn't really happen - my mother was always like that to an extent, but now my father increasingly wanders off for some alone time after having a chat for an hour.

Which ds with HFA does too. Increasingly he and dn (also HFA but presenting very differently) seem just like a mix of their various grandparents.

On the plus side the boys get on very well with their grandparents, but as role models for behaviour they are rather limited!

sparkleglitterdaisy Thu 08-Sep-16 11:11:11

These types of behaviour is very common as people get older . So I don't think it necessarily points to autism .

WhoKnowsWhereTheTimeG0es Thu 08-Sep-16 11:38:55

In my DM's case I don't think it is aging, she's early 70s but not at all "old" either physically or mentally, she's always been the same, if anything she's getting easier to live with (one of her traits is obsessions, which seem less pronounced than they used to be).

Interestingly, my DS also has a speech and language disorder. My DF had a stroke a couple of years ago and it has left him with almost identical issues to DS. In both cases what I have learnt from DS I can apply to my parents.

evrybuddy Thu 08-Sep-16 19:03:31

Cheers all - I wasn't suggesting that these behavious of my MIL are because she is ageing/88 but rather our ability to perceive them and/or her inability to hide them (if she were ever conscious of them) occurs because as Needmoresleep observes, her increased dependency due to ageing has brought us into closer contact.

I believe she was always like this - but spectrums and diagnoses for these behaviours didn't exist in her childhood millieu and still don't exist now in her elderly millieu.

There is nothing we can do except go on - a la Beckett.

Wordsaremything Mon 24-Oct-16 20:59:13

Yep. My mother to a tee. Realised during therapy about ten years ago.

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