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Elderly parents

WWYD? Talk to the doctor or keep my nose out? LONG sorry

55 replies

freddiemisagreatshag · 21/03/2013 11:00

I'm worried about my mum. She is elderly. She has various health issues, including hardening of her arteries, which I am aware can lead to dementia.

My dad is still alive, they are still married, and I'm wondering if I'm over-worrying and what, if anything to do.

She is becoming increasingly forgetful. Forgets to turn the gas off. Doesn't remember arrangements for me to call round/meet for coffee and the like.

She can't work the tv, the computer, if dad died tomorrow I don't know how she'd cope.

Her driving is getting atrocious. It was never good tbh, but now she's so bad I don't like asking her to pick the kids up for me if I'm working. I try to get Dad to do it.

She gets really angry over silly things - raging mad, over something really petty.

She has inappropriate conversations, that's the only way I can describe it. Will phone and tell me she has to go now as she need to poo or she needs a pee, for example.

Her clothes look like a bag lady left them at a dustbin. No money issues, she just doesn't care.

Her behaviour in social situations is odd. For example, she dropped a fork at a restaurant, the waitress saw, went to replace it, mother said no it was fine and licked it clean, and ate her dinner with it.

Also, she makes a big joke and laugh about things that aren't really funny (hard to explain without outing myself)

Should I go and talk to the GP or should I leave my Dad to it and keep my nose out?

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CMOTDibbler · 21/03/2013 11:08

I'd talk to your dad about it, and encourage him to see if he can go to the GP with your mum and ask them to assess her.

Your mum sounds a lot like mine a few years ago, especially the anger and inappropriate conversations

freddiemisagreatshag · 21/03/2013 11:11

Thanks CMOT (and have a medal for reading that epic post lol)

I am worried, but I don't want to encite a shit storm if I do anything that is going to make her angry. Dad is doing his best, but he's getting older too, and when he's checking up on her (as she sees it) she bites his nose off (eg if he goes to check the gas isn't left on she starts on him "you're only going to the kitchen to check if I turned that gas off I can manage")

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CiderwithBuda · 21/03/2013 11:13

You need to talk to your dad and suggest speaking to the GP. It def sounds like she shouldnt be driving I'm afraid.

And it sounds like some form of dementia is present. My mum was initially diagnosed with vascular dementia and had some similar symptoms. The dressing like a bag lady was one. Lack of personal hygiene. Forgetting words. She had had a couple of small strokes. With some forms of dementia medication can help so the sooner you get the GP involved the better.

Sympathies. It's horrible.

freddiemisagreatshag · 21/03/2013 11:13

And she's loud. She doesn't seem to have a volume button. And she has these really embarrassing conversations at full volume. (example off the top of my head - isn't that woman over there wearing a hideous top - said at a level that the woman is bound to have heard)

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freddiemisagreatshag · 21/03/2013 11:15

Cider - yes to the lack of personal hygiene as well.

If I try to talk to him alone she will accuse us of conspiracy, I just know she will.

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Iwishiwasasleep · 21/03/2013 11:15

It does sound very much like the beginning of dementia or similar especially the licking the fork and inappropriate conversations but as we get older we don't always care about social conventions so it could just be that.

There would be no harm in having GP take a look at her though.
Hopefully, it will be nothing to worry about.

iseenodust · 21/03/2013 11:16

Agree with Cider, early access to right meds can slow progress of disease as well as ease symptoms.

iseenodust · 21/03/2013 11:18

Also remember your dad is living with this day to day. He may need a bit of respite eg a night sitter once a week.

freddiemisagreatshag · 21/03/2013 11:19

Her GP isn't the greatest tbh, they fobbed her off about various issues in the past and she didn't get treated as quick as she should have. Or at least, she says they fobbed her off, but I'm not sure about that. Once dad went with her they got sorted and she got medication fairly quickly.

She's savvy enough to know to get washed and nicely dressed for going to the GP, it's just that she doesn't every day - I met her in the supermarket the other week and I was shocked at how she had gone out.

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freddiemisagreatshag · 21/03/2013 11:20

And thank you all - I'm getting reassurance that I'm not over reacting, which is what I was looking for.

I'm due over there this weekend so will engineer something computer-y to do with dad and have a word with him.

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Mmmnotsure · 21/03/2013 11:30

I think the being savvy in some circumstances is quite normal with some forms of dementia. My dm did this even when her dementia was quite far advanced: I would take her to the doctors and she would suddenly seem like she was making sense. She would try so hard.

She is probably frightened and angry, and her attitude and behaviour must make your father's life very difficult as well. I'm so sorry you are going through all this.

gingeroots · 23/03/2013 03:42

How horrible for you freddie .

You don't sound as though you're overacting at all .

I think you know you have to try and tackle this ,though it occurs to me that your dad might not realise how bad your mum is ,simply because he's with her all the time and may be a bit immune to some of her behaviour .

Perhaps the alzeheimers soc would be a good place for you to start/get advice ?
They deal with all types of dementia .

Good luck x

Needmoresleep · 24/03/2013 11:39

Can you talk to your dad in terms of how you might best step in should anything happen to him...fall, stroke, even a bad case of flu.

You want to do the right thing. He will also want his wife properly looked after. Perhaps leave out your concerns about her, but instead focus on how he can enable you to do your best for her if he is not around.

It takes ages to gear the system up, so baseline assessments from a memory clinic or social services are good to have. This will allow support for her if he ended up in hospital or perhaps respite care for him should he come down with a virus or something and need a chance to recover. Or perhaps a carers allowance.

It would also allow you immediate access to informed advice should anything happen to him. And hopefully ways of coping with any dementia illness your mother might have. Your father might want, for the best reasons, to deny there are problems, but might find it a relief to have someone from the memory clinic who might have solutions to day to day problems.

This might also allow discussion about Powers of Attorney, or even a bank account you can access with "rainy day money." If something did happen to him, your mother might deteriorate quickly, partly through stress. He would help you a lot if he can make sure the paperwork is in place. It takes about 3 month if she is capable of signing, but potentially a year or so if she is not. An ideal outcome might be for him to agree a move to some form of sheltered accommodation for them both so if anything happened to him she would have access to support she needed without needing to move. One example is here

(My recent experience was that my dad was acting as my mothers memory. I held back not wanting to upset my dad, and then was unable to persuade my mother and brother that something needed to be done. When my father died of cancer within four months of diagnosis, my mother managed to cling on, barely, to independent living till she had a fall. With no dementia diagnosis the hospital chose to discharge her on Christmas eve, with a broken hip and family 150 miles away, giving two days notice. If there were some diagnosis and social services referral/assessment in place it would have been clear that this was unsafe. Instead we were forced to Google to find a private nursing home with vacancies. Luckily I had held onto some money of hers which I was able to use and the nursing home was fab if expensive, giving us the time we needed to research longer term options. We are still waiting for the social services discharge assessment which wont now take place till April, whilst we will be lucky if the dementia diagnosis, despite the scope for medication which might improve her memory, comes through before May. In the meantime I have had to make key decisions including a move to sheltered housing and the setting up of a private care package without professional advice and insight, and have effectively given up three months of my life trying to sort it all out. If my mother was not wealthy and we were having to wait for assessments in order to access state help it would have been a nightmare, and my mother would have suffered as a result of the inevitable delays in getting her settled in the right form of provision.

I might add that my mother is now settled and happy with no desire to return "home". It was fear of the unknown that had had her clinging on.)

The Alzheimer's Society helpline is good.

freddiemisagreatshag · 24/03/2013 11:42

Needmoresleep that sounds horrendous.

I think, as someone else said, that because dad is living with her everyday, he doesn't see how bad she has actually become. Like living with a child and not seeing them growing, only in reverse iyswim?

Am due over there later this afternoon so am going to try to get dad on his own for a chat.

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Corygal · 24/03/2013 11:57

Sweet, that sounds like almost classic dementia. Of course, the final symptom that you have also recognised is that the sufferer is usually very difficult to deal with. In the first stages. No one likes threats to their independence, but they do get used to it and finally welcome it.

But all is not lost - yes, you are going to have to bite the bullet and do something, but once you've done that things will be better.

Call the doc and have a chat. Your mother might be able to take medication, and she will definitely get some help from carers. As will your dad.

golemmings · 24/03/2013 12:03


motherdaughter · 24/03/2013 13:52

I would get involved. It's really hard though.
I didn't intervene when both my parents were alive - mum had all her marbles and was articulate for both of them. Since she died I have had concerns about my dad and gone straight to the GP.

I think the question will be whether your dad would do anything about it. I know mum wouldn't have done because dad was her carer and she needed him to be seen to be fully functional to have any independence herself.

The driving is particularly scary because the consequences can be so serious and to so many people.

Dad came up to see us the other week (about 100 mile journey) and arrived 3 hrs late because he got lost. He got lost on the way home too which was quite worrying. he did at least have enough sense to find his satnav and get it to navigate him to the right place but it was concerning that he could get lost on a journey he's been doing for years.

Then last week he had an accident. He ploughed into parked cars. Following the accident he was totally confused and disorientated and had no idea how any of it had happened. To be honest, on that occasion he had also had a drink (goodness only knows why; he's not really aware of it) but was sober enough that he was only cautioned by the police. He was all set to go and buy a new car and carry on. I'm not sure now he appreciates that had he not hit the cars he would probably have hit the pavement where the kids were coming out of school... the potential consequences are terrifying.

I spoke to the police and then I spoke to his GP. Whilst the police couldn't do a lot, although they could recommend to the DVLA that he be given a medical, his GP was able to instruct him not to drive. I feel relieved that he's not putting any other road users at risk although I am aware that my intervention has made his life much more difficult and has cost him his independence to some extent.

His GP seemed relieved that I was prepared to get involved and take some responsibility for him and has asked me to go to his next consultation so I can keep repeating what is said if necessary until it finally sinks in; your dad may be relieved to share the responsibility of looking after your mum although he may not be prepared to admit that yet.

freddiemisagreatshag · 25/03/2013 09:24

I went round last night. Came home and ended up in tears.

Basically dad doesn't see a problem. She's fine.

But she really really isn't fine. I know she's not.

WTF do I do know?

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Needmoresleep · 25/03/2013 09:51

You do the right thing.

Your father probably does not want change or to acknowledge a problem. The transition to allowing a "child" to take charge is also difficult. But if you are at a point where his health and your mother's well-being are suffering, your know what is right.

You simply need to hope that when it is all sorted both will acknowledge that you were right.

Phone the GP and ask the receptionist if the GP will phone you back.

Speak to someone who knows them well, Vicar, priest, neighbour etc, and ask their views.

Consult family members.

Phone the Alzheimer's help line.

Speak to Social Services anonymously. Not least it will give you a sense of how good they are, and what their constraints are.

Dont speak again to your father until you have worked out what the options are and what you want out of it, and how you might approach it. One option might be to have someone else speak to him?

Other than encourage him to get the POAs signed on a "just-in-case something happens to you" basis.

Obviously I am not the person to give advice. I had three years of knowing there was a problem and not being able to do anything about it, having to wait for a crisis. I now realise that she could not work her new boiler as it did not have an on-off switch, that her washing machine was filling up with dirty water because her drains were blocked, that the oven was not working as she had knocked the timer switch etc, and she only had one light bulb working in the living room. Add in the fact that she had stopped driving and the walk to the local shop was too far, so there was no fresh food in the fridge. Your dad needs to get the forms signed for your mother's sake.

Also if he will expect you to support her if something happens to him, he needs to sign the forms, start talking about support and adaptations etc for your sake.

I really dont envy you. When the crisis did happen I found myself both relieved I could finally do something and really quite angry. Before that though, and having had two major pushes, one a year ago and one when my father died, I simply had to step back and decide that the problem was one I could not solve and hence one I had to emotionally step back from.

glaurung · 29/03/2013 10:06

It's quite common for old people to be in denial about their memory issues I think; almost as if if they deny there is a problem that it will go away. Might one approach be for you to speak to her GP and explain the problem, maybe he/she could organise a related, but not dementia/memory based appointment - perhaps to having her carotid arteries checked? That may not seem as scary to her as being assessed for dementia, but could come to the same thing. Also, if that is what is causing her problems, she may be able to have them stented or some surgery to prevent further brain decline.

WynkenBlynkenandNod · 31/03/2013 08:08

I know how you feel, it took ages to get a diagnosis for Mum. First thing we did was write a letter to our GP who was also hers, outlining our concerns. This didn't help at the time but was helpful when she finally got in front of a Consultant a couple of weeks ago as it gave history. We made the mistake of not spelling g it out clearly though at the beginning.

Try contacting the GP. Stress that you are very concerned about your Mum's safety and what would happen if your Dad became ill or went out and left her alone eg left the gas on, leaves the front door open (I know she didn't but I'd be tempted to stick it in anyway). That you are extremely concerned about her mental health and suspect she may have Dementia. Say that your Father is in denial about it and will be resistant to any suggestion there's a problem but would it be possible for a home visit to be done under the guise of a new initiative of home screening it keep the elderly well. Also put in that they will be cross if they know you've written so ask the GP not to tell them.

Write down all the examples you've given here. If that doesn't work and I guess it depends on the GP, then you've tried and it's all there in black and white in the future.

Freddiemisagreatshag · 01/04/2013 10:05

I'm nearly in tears this morning. (EX doesn't help but there's a whole other thread about that)

We were over yesterday for dinner. Only 6 of us total. She was dirty. Her clothes were dirty. She couldn't really cope with cooking the dinner. The potatoes were hard, the yorkies were soggy. That's not my mum. She could have cooked that standing on her head.

And (petty) I colour my own hair. The last time I was over or the time before she said how lovely it was and what a nice colour. Same semi-permanent colour. re-done in the last week. And she told me it was horrible and it didn't suit me and it was far too dark and looked terrible. I want to cry but the kids are here.

She has to go for an op in a couple of weeks and after that I am definitely going to the gp.

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Freddiemisagreatshag · 01/04/2013 10:12

This is petty but to me shows how far she's gone down. The gravy was lumpy. My mother never made lumpy gravy in her life.

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CalamityKate · 01/04/2013 10:14

You poor thing :( x

Freddiemisagreatshag · 01/04/2013 10:18

Oh Calamity - she was so sharp and aggressive and RUDE my kids were rolling their eyes. Every time dad spoke she was over reacting it's hard to explain.

Her trousers were filthy. And the apron she had on was a health hazard.

I just feel so sad and there's only me - dad can't or won't see it. If I go to the doctor will they tell her I've been? I am so worried.

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