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Elderly parents

Is this the start of dementia?

59 replies

KittensSchmittens · 05/02/2023 16:48

We're starting to worry about my mother (74) and wondering whether we should contact the GP.

Things that are new/out of character:

She seems to have developed an absolutely rigid daily routine which she never deviates from. It’s very specific and involves doing, and eating the exact same things every day in the same order.

She says the same stock phrases at the same points in the day e.g. when she sees the dog in the morning it's 'good morning, are you being a good dog, be patient, I'll take you for a walk later'. Same phrase, same time every day.

She doesn’t engage in much back and forth conversation, it’s mostly broadcasting information relating to her routine, the dog or the weather. She will tell the same anecdotes over and over. The same reminiscence will be triggered by a specific topic e.g. if we mention the pub it will trigger ‘the pub anecdote’. She has a number of these.

She forgets the words for things (she just now called dumbbells ‘lifting tools’, which was a bit alarming). We've also had 'the stuff for washing your hands' (soap, mum). Yesterday my son had a friend over and she asked what the friend’s name was 3 times in 10 mins.

She wears the same 2 or 3 outfits, eats the same breakfast, rotation of 3 lunches and 5 dinners every day. She doesn't cook at all, only microwave or oven meals.

Every evening she repeatedly shouts the same same line of a made up song over and over every 30 secs for up to an hour while she's making the dogs dinner and making her own dinner.

She's developed a nervous laugh at the start and end of every sentence. Laughing is the main form of response if she's not sure how to react e.g. the kids show her something random instead of going 'oh that's nice billy' or whatever she'll just laugh. It's just constant giggling.

We have to talk in very short, clear sentences to make ourselves understood, otherwise she'll interrupt and redirect the conversation back to her daily routine/dog info/the weather.

She only watches the news, Pointless and music on the tv, nothing with a storyline to follow. She watches these 3 programmes everyday in the same order.

Her broadcasting of information is very good, so talking to her she seems quite normal and she can do small talk as long as she's dominating the conversation, but I'm wondering if this is a cover for the fact she isn't following what we're saying.

Is this likely to be the start of dementia, just mild cognitive impairment or just how people get when they age? Do we call the GP and see if they can get her in for a check up.

OP posts:
JennyWreny · 05/02/2023 17:05

Sounds like it would be good to get her to the GP to check. Do you think she would agree to go?

It would be good to look into POA if you don't already have it as if she loses capacity it can be too late to set it up.

FinallyHere · 05/02/2023 17:10

It took us a long time to twig that our DM's hearing was really very bad. She just didn't hear what anyone said do masked by dominating the conversation so she had some idea of what was happening.

I'd encourage you to contact her GP for a check up and also arrange a hearing test. DM refused the hearing test unless told that the GP had ordered it.

Sigh. Hope it goes well for you.

BeyondMyWits · 05/02/2023 17:19

I hope it goes well for you. Can i ask... how quickly has this come on? MIL was diagnosed with vascular dementia and Alzheimers after a memory test and scan 3 - 4 years ago. She has been doing the same as your mum for the past year... BUT deafness and UTIs can also produce some of the issues. Can second the Pp saying get a power of attorney in place if you dont already. Dealing with doctors, nurses, hospital, bank, insurance etc etc etc on their behalf becomes VERY difficult without one.

We are just watching a tv show on the beast from the east and if she asks one more time what year that was, i swear I'll explode...

KittensSchmittens · 05/02/2023 17:24

Do you think it's more likely to be hearing related than a memory problem. Her hearing clearly isn't what it was - the tv is always blasting.

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KittensSchmittens · 05/02/2023 17:31

@BeyondMyWits I noticed that she was writing things down in her phone that otherwise you would think someone would either a) remember or b) realise weren't details that you needed to remember about 4 years ago. I started to notice that she was only having one sided conversations about 2 years ago but put this down to aging and being naturally self-centred.

Tbh she now comes across as absolutely batshit to me as her daughter. She's nothing like she was before, but I think she more or less pulls of appearing normal to other people.

To an outsider I think the forgetting names for objects is probably the clearest sign of a memory problem, but as someone who knows her I would say her whole personality is different now.

OP posts:
MarshaMelrose · 05/02/2023 17:37

My mum did very similar to yours. Limited convo - weather, cars passing, dog. Stopped using the hob and oven and just used the microwave which she just pressed start so everything cooked for just a minute. Same stories triggered by same words or situations. Can't take in long info from long sentences. Needs people to speak slower and keep the point simple. Can't think of the right words for things. She's quite bad now and all people, men, women, children, are blokes. All animals are dogs, including birds. Sometimes, though, dogs are cats. It's mind blowing listening to her! 😁
She has stock phrases that bring a good response, like, how are the children, how's your mum, you look really well, so if you met her out and about, you'd think she was ok. She doesn't dominate the convo now because she knows she doesn't understand things and says things wrong, so she's embarrassed to speak to friends. With family she just burbles on.

BeyondMyWits · 05/02/2023 17:38

I would encourage her to go ask for a memory test, it has been going on for a while... if it is dementia, there are medications that can help slow the progress. If it is not, no harm done.

JennyWreny · 05/02/2023 17:51

It sounds as though it would be good to discuss hearing problems with the GP as well. Would she be happy for you to be in the appointment too, the GP might find it useful for you to give some background info.

The consultant at the memory clinic explained to us that they use three methods to come up with likely diagnosis which are 1) background information on what the symptoms are, 2) memory assessment - longer version of what they do at GPs and 3) MRI scan (they don't always do this apparently, depends on age).

FYI, for us it was a >6 month wait for the memory clinic appointment after the referral. I had started to look into private options but then the appointment came through. We had asked the GP to write again as there was an issue with getting muddled with medication and therefore we were able to get a cancellation appointment.

CMOTDibbler · 05/02/2023 17:58

I think you need to take her to the GP, and if possible send a note to the GP beforehand to say you have noticed these things.
FWIW, my mum did all these things, and I remember someone saying to me after her diagnosis that she didn't seem like she had dementia at all as she would reel out these stock phrases - but if you deviated in the least from the script she was lost

KittensSchmittens · 05/02/2023 19:05

She wouldn't let me come to the GP with her, but I think she would go if the GP asked her to go in. Are they likely to pay any attention to me if I call and say she seems to have some issues with her memory? Would they call her in? Otherwise I'm 100% sure she wouldn't go.

Is there much benefit to getting a diagnosis? If it is dementia surely at some point it will become very obvious and she'll need residential care. We wouldn't be eligible for any benefits or help with care home fees, so does having the diagnosis help?

OP posts:
NewspaperTaxis · 05/02/2023 19:19

Sounds like my Dad's early onset dementia, that said he did a lot of this stuff for literally decades, in particular being all broadcast no reception. He could talk for an hour or more about his own thoughts and feelings, everything in his head, never set you up to say anything. You were an onlooker.
But later he did that thing of falling back on a phrase. Initially, I thought he was doing it as a wind-up as he had that way about him anyway.
Never really was sure of what anti-dementia treatment is or was so we did sit on it.
I do advise you to sort out Lasting Power of Attorney in both Health & Welfare and Finance while you still can if you haven't already. Frame it so you say your hands will be tied in the future if they don't grant you it as you simply won't be able to help them, and it only kicks in if it comes to the worst. It's like travel insurance - if you have it and don't need it fine, if not, you're stuffed.
Look out for any cheques around the house that haven't been cashed - from shares in various companies if that was ever a thing.
Vit B1 is said to be good for dementia but I can't vouch for it. Various Vit B pills are said to be.

Ladybug14 · 05/02/2023 19:26

Diagnosis definitely helps.

You know what is happening and what to expect.

She's likely to be eligible for Attendance Allowance.

You can get advice about the help she can get at home.

You can get advice about how she can help herself

It may be years before she needs a care home if at all. She'll always be better orientated living somewhere she knows

JussathoB · 05/02/2023 19:33

Although it must be upsetting to get a diagnosis of dementia I think it’s helpful to get the condition recognised, if the person does have it. If it is dementia then later there will be deterioration and when things do get difficult then you should get more support from GPs etc if the condition is noted on records etc

DPotter · 05/02/2023 19:34

You don't need a firm diagnosis as much of the support is based on the individuals needs. A diagnosis is required for any drug treatment. My DM didn't have a firm diagnosis as she became too distressed during her assessments at the Memory Clinic but her local social services were happy to assess her and my DF as her carer without.

Please put in a claim for attendance allowance. The Alzheimer's Society and Aged UK are very good sources of information. A POA is a very good idea if she can agree to it - get both the financial and the health one as well

KittensSchmittens · 05/02/2023 19:37

To be honest, day to day she manages just fine - she doesn't do housework, but she has a cleaner who keeps on top of things and gardener who mows the lawn. She washes herself, shops and cooks. Goes to her exercise class and walks the dog. She remembers to lock the door (95% of the time). She can still drive. She drove 2 hours north and back recently and apparently managed that fine. So, it's mainly just her social skills and the scope of her life that have diminished so far.

As I say I noticed odd behaviours 4 years ago, so it's not been a quick decline. Maybe it will continue that way?

OP posts:
BeyondMyWits · 05/02/2023 19:38

With a diagnosis, there are various medications she can be given to slow the speed of onset,
with vascular dementia... physical symptoms can become debilitating, with alzheimers, mental symptoms take the lead. These can both be slowed with medication.

PritiPatelsMaker · 05/02/2023 19:44

She wouldn't let me come to the GP with her, but I think she would go if the GP asked her to go in. Are they likely to pay any attention to me if I call and say she seems to have some issues with her memory? Would they call her in? Otherwise I'm 100% sure she wouldn't go

Our GP will listen as long as you make it clear that you aren't asking for any information on the patient, you are merely passing on information.

They could invite her in for a "medication review" or a "well woman check".

I think it's time she gives up driving though @KittensSchmittens. It definitely sounds as though she doesn't have enough capacity for driving.

My DMIL has Vascular Dementia and those symptoms didn't show for around 2 years after diagnosis.

NewspaperTaxis · 05/02/2023 21:10

Is she driving? Get a sight test done. It's to rule out cataracts - which has no bearing on dementia really of course but it's one to be aware of just to avoid an unnecessary car crash. Hearing test too, I'm just going thru a checklist of things to look out for anyway. It's to widen that margin of error.
Yes, it can be many years before any of this becomes a particular pressing issue.

KittensSchmittens · 05/02/2023 22:25

She does drive, yes, and seems to be fine with it although I haven't been driven by her in a long time. I would naturally do the driving if we went anywhere. She drove her sister 2 hours down from the north recently and the sister, who has all her marbles, didn't pass any comment on her driving. She did mention that she thought she was more forgetful though.

OP posts:
Crikeyalmighty · 05/02/2023 22:39

Could it possibly be just that her world has got very small and so she focuses on the stuff she can still talk about and just become a bit eccentric due to too much time on her own?? My FIL is 83 and he tells the same anecdotes over and over again and since his partner died tends to make the same meals on repeat , however in other aspects he's clearly still 'all there' - and sorted out a POA a few years ago for if needed.

Icanflyhigh · 05/02/2023 22:53

Certainly sounds worth getting a GP opinion - she sounds like a lot of traits are prevalent for dementia, but could be other stuff too.

MereDintofPandiculation · 06/02/2023 09:28

You don't need a firm diagnosis as much of the support is based on the individuals needs. This applies to Attendance Allowance too.

Alzheimer’s Society has useful checklist comparing normal ageing with dementia

TheFeistyFeminist · 06/02/2023 09:42

You say you've noticed changes in her - personality, behaviours, the repetition of certain phrases, writing things down.

In case there is an underlying health issue, definitely worth a GP appointment. Can you railroad her into you going with her?

My own mum is very resistant to the idea of it being anything other than the slow decline of old age, but I suspect otherwise and will definitely go to the GP review of her long term conditions, as I suspect they will spot it for themselves at this point.

Good luck, with or without a diagnosis it isn't easy, and I'm afraid the road only goes in one direction.

SheilaFentiman · 06/02/2023 11:52

She should have a driving assessment. If she passes, fine.

CMOTDibbler · 06/02/2023 12:14

I would say with the driving, my mum could drive OK on routes she knew for a long time. Until there was a diversion and she was hopelessly lost.

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