Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My mother has Alzheimers Disease

I have changed the name of this blog from "My mother has dementia" to "My mother has Alzheimers Disease". The reason is, that previously, the specialist had said it's most likely vascular dementia. It wasn't progressing much and her memory wasn't too bad. She could pass the mini-mental-state test with flying colours. She was mainly just paranoid.

But the last few months things have got worse. The specialist says it's now most likely both kinds of dementia, but definitely Alzheimers now.

The deterioration over the past few weeks has been noticeable and shocking. I had thought she'd coast along for the rest of her life being more or less the same, but things have really taken a dive and almost every day, I notice a skill or ability she no longer has.

When I visited her in the nursing home where she's having respite, last weekend, I found she'd broken her mobile phone into bits and put all the bits in various drawers. I managed to find them all and put it back together.

Until a few weeks ago, she knew to press number 2 to get me or 3 to get my daughter on the phone. She can't do that any more. Until a few weeks ago she knew how to plug in the phone charger -not any more.

She's losing the lids off everything - makeup, face creams, toothpaste, and she's pulled the nozzle off the expensive bottle of perfume I left for her and lost it.

For the past three or four weeks she hasn't been able to find and put on a bra, so if no-one dresses her, she goes bra-less. She basically can't find any of her clothes and needs someone to stand there and pass her things. At the nursing home, they don't dress the residents as it's only hostel care. So I've found her dressed in some very odd combinations, probably chosen by the Alzheimer lady in the next room.

She's started keeping her shoes in her undies drawer or other parts of the wardrobe, and she almost always puts her shoes on the wrong feet.

She gets her clothes in a terrible mess, pulling them out and then throwing them back in at random. She won't put her clothes out to be washed, but she was the same in the nursing home where she lived for 8 months last year. She believes the clothes won't come back and so she hides them.

A few months back, she wouldn't do any of these things except the hiding dirty clothes thing. The deterioration is so noticeable and such a terrible shock when I wasn't expecting her to ever deteriorate suddenly.

Physically she is as fit as a fiddle and can walk for miles. But mentally she is racing towards death. I can see that she will reach Stage 7 very quickly, even though the mean duration of the 6th stage is 2.3 years.

I'd say at present she's in late Stage 6. The information on the internet says that once they lose the ability to dress without assistance, they lose the ability to independently maintain cleanliness in toileting. This has certainly happened.

She has absolutely no idea where she lives - the suburb, the street, completely blank on those questions.

She started putting her clothes on inside out and backwards about five weeks ago. One day I found her in the bathroom after her shower, trying to put her legs into a skivvie. I have to take away her day clothes now - which she strongly objects to - and only leave the pyjamas in the bathroom, otherwise she'll put back on not only her pyjamas, but everything she's worn that day, including the dirty underpants.

She puts the toilet paper in strange places - on the floor, in the bathroom basin, in the bin. If I try to help her and remind her to wipe herself, she'll hold up the dirty toilet paper and ask me what to do with it. If I leave her on her own, she'll stand up with the dirty toilet paper in her hand and then smear it all around the toilet seat. I've gone through bottles and bottles of bleach.

I have read that urinary incontinence is the next stage.

Quite often she does not know who my daughter is, and she didn't know who I was on a couple of occasions. Her speech is OK, but all she wants to talk about is cats.

Stage 7 is so horrible I hope she doesn't live that long, but unfortunately, she's in such good health, she probably will.

I never thought it would come to this. I never thought, because not one other member of her large family ever fell victim to such a terrible thing. All her aunties except one, fell victim to an early stroke. Her own mother died at 72, with some minor mental changes, of heart failure. The aunt who lived to be over 90 had all her marbles when she died. The men in the family died early of lung or heart conditions, or cancer, well before they could develop dementia. Her brother died of cancer at 78, her father of a heart attack at 58. Her maternal grandmother died at 87 following a very short - 3-week- episode of mania. Before that, she was spending her days betting on the horses and listening to the radio. So there wasn't too much wrong with her. Her paternal grandparents died aged 34 and 54. No dementia there - but had there been modern medical assistance, they may have lived long enough to suffer this, who knows. I know the medical histories and causes of death of her great grandparents as well.

Elderly family members in the 1950s - and not one of them with dementia.


  1. How are the cats adjusting now? It sounds like the nursing home doesn't provide much care at all, but at least she is safe there.

    My husband has Vascular Dementia and Alzheimer's in equal proportion according to a neurologist. He is still in stage one.

    1. Yes, the neurologist said it is vascular dementia and Alzheimers in equal proportion. The cats are much happier now that Mum isn't chasing them around all the time, disturbing their peace and locking them in bedrooms. Mum's 15 year old cat had to have an eye removed due to an ulcer, but she's doing OK. Mum has never noticed that she has one eye.

  2. My mother also has alzheimers and I am so glad you write your blog as it gives me an idea as to what might happen. But It also makes me scared of what could happen. Right now she still lives on her own but I'm not sure for how much longer. Her memory is really bad and doesn't usually remember anyones name, even mine. It's very heart retching.
    My thoughts are with you and I'm sure you will do what is right for you and your mother.

    1. Thank you for your reply, Kathy. It's very hard to predict what will happen. Some people are fortunate in that they die from a heart attack or stroke before the Alzheimers gets much worse. Now I look back, I think Mum's mother had the beginnings of it at 70, but she had a bad heart and died at 71. I was really shocked when Mum suddenly started going downhill this year. It has been so many years, I thought she'd just continue as she was.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Sean. Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

  4. I wish I knew about the day you moved her and how you did it...
    I am going through the clothes thing also, mother is late stage six I think.

  5. I know the neurologist said it is vascular dementia and Alzheimer's in equal proportion.
    Sports Drink is very effective for health.


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