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  1. #1
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    I think my mother may have dementia

    Hi,
    This is my first post here.

    My mother is 81 and lives in Spain. I have had a feeling for the last few months that my mother has memory issues. Looking back, the deterioration may have started about 18 months ago. She is having trouble writing down numbers without getting in a muddle, can't concentrate on the TV for more than a few minutes because she has trouble following storylines, she often can't remember the word for something simple (kept calling a store - the school). A friend of hers called to tell me that my mother asked them to come over but when they got there she had gone out. My mother didn't remember that she had asked her friend over.
    There have also been a couple of more bizarre incidents. One in which she wanted to get in touch with her brother about selling some land which has not been in the family for many, many years.
    My problem is that my mother has no awareness that she may have memory issues. She doesn't have a family doctor and uses a home doctor service, if she is feeling unwell, so there is no one I can contact to express my concerns.
    Does anyone have experience of the symptoms I have outlined? Could it be dementia? How on earth do I get her to a doctor for a medical assessment, as she doesn't think she has a problem and just puts it down to normal 'old age issues'.
    I should add that there is no history of dementia in the family. Also, she has days when she seems perfectly normal, which leaves me thinking I have imagined it all.
    Any advice welcome!
    Last edited by lon; 21-06-2012 at 06:21 PM.
     

  2. #2
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    I remember well the feelings of imagining it all, . It turned out to be Alzheimers !!!

    It certainly sounds as though there is some form of dementia but obviously a doctors appointment is necessary.

    I cannot help you about your particular problem, only the mental ones you are having.

    Love Jeannette
     

  3. #3
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    It could be some kind of dementia but you won't know for sure until/unless you get your mum to see a doctor. Obviously if she won't see one you're a bit stuck. Some doctors do sometimes put themselves out (inviting the person for 'routine' checks etc) but if you don't have a doctor to contact then I don't think you've got much of a chance of making things happen.

    I only managed to get my mum to her GP's (having talked to him first so he was primed to do some digging around) by saying we were going for a flu jab. There is no way on this planet she would've agreed to go because of anything being wrong with her or her memory.

    Getting the person to admit that there's anything wrong is often impossible. My mum's quite poorly now but keeps announcing how fit and healthy she is. Her memory's fine too as far as she's concerned, even though, for example, she had two appointments yesterday and didn't have a clue about either one, even though I made her write them down in her calendar and spent the day reminding her. Each time was a surprise with the odd 'why didn't you tell me!' thrown in a few times for good measure. It's tough.
     

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the replies. I so wish my mother had a GP that I could speak to about this. From what I have read, it may be that I need to use some sort deception to get her to see someone. How long does it take to get a diagnosis of dementia? Days, weeks or months? What did the doctor do when they first saw your relative in the surgery after you suspected they might have memory problems?
    Sorry about all the questions. But after my phone call to her today, I am beginning to panic.
     

  5. #5
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    I too had to arrange an appointment and firstly told the GP what I expected, then told my mam it was a routine check up. The GP then referred her to the mental health team who came and did a full assessment, memory check etc. Then an appointment was made for a CT scan to decide which form of dementia it was, turned out to be AZ. Following this there was a discussion on tablets etc. She then had 6 monthly checks by the MH team, but I had to arrange a SW to look at the care package with the LA following concerning behaviour and for her to attend a AZ day centre.

    I think your journey has started. Good luck
     

  6. #6
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    Grannie, Can I ask how long it took for the mental health team to make a diagnosis. Were they able to do this on her first visit to them, or did they have to wait for the CT scan? Is the CT scan used just to determine the kind of dementia?

    Delphie, Is your mother still living on her own? It sounds as if you are not far away. With the benefit of your experience, do you think your mother could have coped with living in her own home if you were not living near her? I am looking to the future and wondering about her continuing to live where she is but maybe with some assistance, at least in the short term. I know getting her outside help is going to be difficult as she doesn't think there is a problem and is going to resent the intrusion. I arranged a home help for her after she had a bad accident several years ago but she dismissed the girl after just one week even though she was physically very limited and struggled to cope afterwards.

    Thanks for your replies.
     

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by lon View Post
    Grannie, Can I ask how long it took for the mental health team to make a diagnosis. Were they able to do this on her first visit to them, or did they have to wait for the CT scan? Is the CT scan used just to determine the kind of dementia?

    Delphie, Is your mother still living on her own? It sounds as if you are not far away. With the benefit of your experience, do you think your mother could have coped with living in her own home if you were not living near her? I am looking to the future and wondering about her continuing to live where she is but maybe with some assistance, at least in the short term. I know getting her outside help is going to be difficult as she doesn't think there is a problem and is going to resent the intrusion. I arranged a home help for her after she had a bad accident several years ago but she dismissed the girl after just one week even though she was physically very limited and struggled to cope afterwards.

    Thanks for your replies.
    Hi again Ion.

    I'll try to answer as best as I can. My mum does live independently and although I don't live too far away I wasn't seeing a great deal of her for various reasons (I'd been abroad a fair bit and we never had a relationship where we saw one another often) so my contact with her was mainly by phone as she was becoming more and more ill, and it took me a while to figure out just as bad things were.

    She was coping in as far as she wasn't dead from starvation but that's been her level of ability for quite some time now. She wasn't paying her bills, bailiffs were due to come knocking on her door (she'd been prosecuted and didn't have a clue about it, although there were loads of letters about it in her house), she hadn't filed her tax return in years and was being chased be HMRC etc. I'm sure those things would've got sorted out somehow without my involvement but she was also ripped off financially to the tune of several thousands and I'm sure that my invlvement prevented something similar happening again, as she got 'befriended' by a shady character who was known to the police. Who knows where that might've ended!

    She's still at home but now has me and a social worker and a psychiatric community nurse popping in regularly, and I'm her Deputy so there's very little she can lose in terms of cash, and my presence means that she can't be 'befriended' again, or not as easily. That said, my mum also resents help and only tolerates very short visits from the SW and the CPN. Sometimes she doesn't let them onto her property at all. Sometimes she won't see me either, but between us we've managed to keep her from harm until now, if only from a distance. You have my sympathy as you might run into the same problems and it's hugely frustrating, watching someone you care for sleepwalk towards the edge of a cliff while they mumble that they're fine and to leave them be.

    To answer your earlier question, our path to a diagnosis was as follows. I saw the GP and told him what I'd observed. Mum and I then went in for a flu jab and he did a MMSE, a short 'memory' test, kind of. My mum's score indicated that something might be up and as he talked to her he could see that she had no idea about things that should've been obvious, even her own personal history. The GP arranged for a blood test to rule out the most obvious stuff and when that came back fine we got an appointment with a psychiatrist at a memory clinic. She went to that because she didn't understand where we were going and the whole thing from start to finish was a bit of an ambush really.

    And that's where my luck run out. We got through that appointment and the psychiatrist did a longer test, and also chatted to her while checking the facts with me. Mum, again, didn't have a clue. She couldn't remember her first husband at all, no idea which schools she'd attended or where she'd worked, wasn't sure who in her family was alive or dead. You get the idea! The psychiatris wanted to do a scan but that appointment resulted in a major paranoid episode and she hasn't accepted any medical involvement since, so she's not on medicatin, which is a shame.

    The plus points are that I now have a little bit of help with keeping an eye on her and that I coud get the Deputyship sorted out.

    Keeping her safe and healthy is an ongoing struggle and she lives in filth, smells to high heaven sometimes, and her fridge is full of rotten food. I do what I can but it's far from ideal.

    Your situation is hugely complicated by the distance and I'm really sorry that I don't know what to suggest... Are you in the UK? Woud it be possible for you to bring her over for a holiday and then maybe get her into the system here? I've no idea how that would pan out or what you'd achieve in the long term, but unless you go and spend some time over there I doubt you'll get very far trying to manage things remotely, especially given that your mum has no insight.

    I wish you the very best of luck and it would be great to know how your story unfolds.
    Last edited by Delphie; 22-06-2012 at 06:30 PM.
     

  8. #8
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    P.S. I think it was about 3 months from seeing the GP to getting the diagnosis from the psychiatrist.
     

  9. #9
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    Hi Delphie,
    Thank you for taking the time to write such a thorough reply. It was good to read of your experiences. It has given me an idea of what I may have to deal with in the future.

    In answer to your question, I live in the UK. I am British. But my mother is American. It is a complex situation and those who know me say I could write a book about how all this came about. Maybe I will someday.

    I have two sisters that live in the US. One has made it clear that she will not help with my mother. They haven’t spoken for several years. The other has said she will help but is dragging out the process of getting our mother back to the US for as long as she possibly can. She doesn’t want my mother living with her, or near her, so has been looking at assisted living places. She has been ‘looking’ for at least 8 months now. She really doesn’t want the responsibility and keeps telling me that ‘I am saint’ for doing all that I have done for her, thus far which I think is just another way of her saying, ‘Thank God, you have to deal with her and not me’. My sister started her search before I had my suspicions about Mum’s memory. I now feel the situation is much worse and I have emailed my sister to say that I believe that if something is not done soon, Mum will be at risk. This has not instilled any urgency in my sister. I have also said that Mum needed medical assessment urgently but she has not replied which in my eyes is shocking. My sister is a geriatric nurse and must realise that the situation has been deteriorating. I have kept her informed of everything that is going on.

    I would be happy to bring my Mum here and get her seen by my GP but she has no entitlement to NHS treatment or local authority assistance. In addition, It is not possible for her to travel here as she cannot get any travel insurance that will cover her osteoporosis. I cannot begin to imagine how much it would cost if she fractured her hip while she was here. I have commitments that keep me here in the UK. I cannot visit more than once or twice a year.

    My primary concern is that my mother is medically assessed, and if needed, put on medication that will help with her condition. You must be as frustrated as I am to know that there may be drugs available that can help your mother but without the diagnosis, nothing can be prescribed.

    My mother called yesterday and during the course of a very long conversation in which I understood little of what she was saying, she told me that she had sacked her cleaner for being ‘rude’ about a month ago. She now has no help in her home if, of course, it’s true. I tried to find out what had happened between them but she got verbally abusive, so I let it drop. When she gets like that, it’s best to stop asking questions. I have a gut feeling that she gets like that when she can’t remember things and is getting defensive. I was trying to find out what meds she was taking the other day and she became aggressive; telling me to stop asking questions about things that were none of my business and demanding to know who made me the police.

    I am getting very stressed about the whole situation.

    BTW, my sister will not even phone my mother so she can hear for herself how bad she is now. She says it is too expensive as she no longer has a landline, just a mobile.
    Sorry for the very long post.
    Last edited by lon; 22-06-2012 at 08:29 PM.
     

  10. #10
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    Hi ION

    The scan my mam had took about 2 months to get the results. The Dr told her face to face the results which I think helped me to sort out her finances etc as she was more willing to accept the help.

    It must be really hard for you being so far away. You also need to think about POA with your sisters because I found this to be essential when dealing with agency's, bill payments etc., as no one will speak to you unless you have this.

    Sorry I cannot be of much more help, but thinking of you and your journey ahead x
     

  11. #11
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    That sounds like a complete nightmare.

    It's tough enough here, with all kinds services and supports in place. Even then many of us hear that nothing much can be done until there's a crisis. In your situation I've no idea who you can turn to for help, beyond your family and they sound reluctant to roll their sleeves up. I was about to say that if you keep telling them that you must act, as a family, then maybe you'll get somewhere together, without one person thinking that they have to sort everything out and that it's too much to take on. But, and it's a big one, even if you got together and sorted everything for mum back home, you still have to get her on that plane, and I imagine that may not be easy.

    I wish you the very best of luck Ion, I really do. Maybe someone else will come up with some good suggestions.
     

  12. #12
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    A thought. Could you get contact details for the cleaner somehow? Would mum pass them on if you pretended to take her side and said you wanted to let them know how cross you are about the rudeness? Or can you contact her friend over there? If you managed that bit you might get more insight into what happened and also get some local information as far as medical care, maybe even some contact details for a doctor who would be willing to see your mum on some pretext. It's a very long shot, I know, but the people there are currently your only reliable link to what's happening and what's possible.

    Ignore me if I'm not making sense!
     

  13. #13
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    Grannie
    I really hope that the doctor who sees my mother will tell her face to face, if she does get a diagnosis of dementia. She may listen to a third party. I don’t think she would ever listen to me. Even then she may never accept that she has a problem as she is still insistent that there is nothing wrong. When she started muddling up numbers, she said it was because the numbers she was writing down were “too long”. She doesn’t see anything unusual. I am beginning to understand that is not unusual for dementia.

    I have an enduring power of attorney which was drawn up when my mother had an accident about 5 years ago that put her in ITU. I have no idea what it actually contains, it is all in Spanish, or how I go about getting this activated, if that is the right word. I have the name of the solicitor in Spain who drew it up and I am at the point of contacting him about it, just in case. Fortunately, most of her bills are on DD. The only thing not on DD is her local taxes/rates.

    Delphie,
    I have tried to get the family involved in the decision making. This is how I found out that one of my sisters refused to take any responsibility. The most she was willing to do was prepare Mum’s room in a CH and maybe take her to her first appt. with a Dr but after that she was not going to be involved. Not even visiting. The other sister has reluctantly accepted responsibility but doesn’t want to do it. Who would really? – it’s a tough job. But if Mum is in assisted living, she will always have a team of carers around. A far easier job for my sister, than looking after her in her own home. Mum needs AL because she is physically limited and not getting better. But now she will be in a safe place if she has dementia, too.

    Mum had a Filipino cleaner which had been with her for many years. Her English was limited but she had my phone number and I know she would have called me if there was a problem. Unfortunately, this cleaner became very ill about 2 years ago and she returned to her family in the Phillipines. Her lastest cleaner, also a Filipino, has cleaned for Mum since the other left. However, she speaks no English. She and Mum communicated in Spanish.
    I should clarify that her ‘friend’ is actually a former neighbour who sees Mum about once a week but you do get the feeling when you see them together that she sees it as a duty because Mum has no one else. I will call her and see if she knows anything about the cleaner. Also, I have a friend who lives up the coast and they have been very good. They have called in to check on my mother if I have had concerns but I heard yesterday that my friend is moving back to the UK with their partner and will probably only return to their Spanish home for short visits.
    I found a member on this forum who lives in near my mother in Spain and PM’ed her last night to ask if she could suggest an English speaking GP, I could contact.
    And don’t worry - you made perfect sense.
    I feel better just being able to tell others about the situation.
     

  14. #14
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    Just an update.

    I phoned Mum's friend/neighbour to ask about what happened with the cleaner.
    Mum told her friend that she sacked the cleaner for stealing. Mum told me she sacked her for being rude. Who knows what the real story is? All that is certain is that she has no cleaner.

    More importantly, I asked her friend about English speaking doctors in the area and she informs me that my mother already has a family doctor in Spain!! She is going to try and find out the doctor's name so I can get in touch with her and voice my concerns. I am not sure yet if this doctor speaks English but I so hope she does. Worst case scenario is that I use Google translate to send an email to her. Keeping my fingers crossed that this doctor is still treating my mother as my mother was very certain that she used the emergency home doctor service if she felt unwell.

    Feeling so much more hopeful now.
     

  15. #15
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    How long does it take other family members to accept that their relative has a problem?
    Do you have to wait until they see for themselves? I worry about this because it took a long time before the penny dropped with me that Mum had memory issues.

    My sister doesn't see there is a problem. She hasn't spoken to Mum for over a year. Not because there is a problem between them but because she just says it is too expensive to call her from the US where she lives. She sends letters to Mum by 'snail mail' and Mum struggles to write a reply.
    I have been emailing my sister with info on how Mum is doing and yesterday I got an email back from her saying I was obsessed with Mum's problems. I have the feeling that she is sitting there with her fingers in her ears going la-la-la-la, so she can't hear it. Yet, my mother is going to live near my sister, hopefully soon, and I feel I should keep her informed on Mum's health. I don't know of an easy way of get her understanding of the situation. Certainly, what I have been doing so far hasn't been working.
    Mum will be assessed when she gets to my sister's but my sister wants to put her straight into dementia care if suspicions are confirmed even though Mum could manage well outside this environment for sometime yet.

    At the moment, Mum manages on her own. I call every other day to check on her. The last few phone calls to her have been good. She has been easily understood and hasn't been going round and round in circles trying to tell me what has been going on. Her only problem at the moment is that her phone will not let her dial out. A friend has lent her a mobile phone until her phone is fixed. She told me about it when I spoke to her on Sunday but by Tuesday she told me her friend had leant her a small TV! She couldn't grasp that she could make phone calls on it.

    Still waiting for her friend to get back to me with the name of Mum's GP. As a start, we can at least eliminate an underlying medical condition or problems with her medication.
     

 

 

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