Are mum's symptoms typical or atypical?

Discussion in 'I care for a person with dementia' started by AndreaP, Aug 20, 2015.

  1. AndreaP

    AndreaP Registered User

    I don't know what kind of dementia my 91 yo mum has. She would never allow us to take her to a Geriatrician or even discuss it with her GP. She was hell bent on remaining in denial by not addressing her memory issues. Until last October she was even driving a car.

    But symptoms started about 3 years ago. Firstly she was unable to make a decision, then she started hiding things and forgetting that she had. She became very paranoid and thought she was being stolen from. She claimed things were disappearing that she'd given away or sold years before. Certain events had gone from her memory. She'd imagine all sorts of strange stuff at night ie people tapping on her window when she is almost stone deaf; the woman next door on the other side of a garage playing music all night. But the most telling thing was that she could not grasp any new information. 18 months ago the remote control on her car started playing up and would not always open the car and disable the immobiliser. We had it checked out, replaced the battery and assured her it was nothing but the remote. She simply had to press it twice sometimes.

    She simply could not remember or understand that she had to do this. It was impossible to get through to her. In fact any new information about anything was immediately forgotten. She told me her microwave was in the garage and yet she used it every day.

    The surprising thing is that she speaks quite coherently and quite fluently and with animation. She talks about the distant past with enthusiasm and clarity and her deafness and poor eyesight seem on the surface to be her main disabilities. For this reason she fooled my brother until recently into believing she had no significant dementia. He argued constantly with me.

    Now she is in a nursing home and while she still has no language problems, she has no understanding of how the place is laid out. She seems to think it is several different houses instead of one large building. She thinks there is a street running through the middle. She walks from her room to the dining room turns right and into reception and has no idea how to get back. Her eyesight isn't that bad that she couldn't determine this.

    She behaves bizarrely at night, wandering the corridors and having no memory of it. She says they put in a drip every day but they are just pricking her finger to test her sugar levels.

    Is this symptomatic of a typical dementia patient? If so where would she be on her dementia journey? Any insights would be appreciated.
  2. Canadian Joanne

    Canadian Joanne Volunteer Moderator

    Apr 8, 2005
    Toronto, Canada
    Hello Andrea,
    Yes, this does sound very typical of a dementia patient. However, there are many different types of dementia, with Alzheimer's being the most common, with about 65% of people with dementia being diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

    As for progression, here's a factsheet.
  3. canary

    canary Registered User

    Feb 25, 2014
    South coast
    Hi Andrea
    My mum is in a CH and can talk fluently, although like your mum the stories are getting increasingly strange. For a long time she too could cover up her dementia and fooled everyone into thinking that she was OK. For me too it was only when the symptoms reached the level that you have described - thinking things were being stolen from her, getting lost, wandering around at night etc that I too suddenly realised that there was a big, BIG, problem.

    It is not just me - all the things that you have described are typical of dementia. So many people think that dementia means that you develop a poor memory, but it is so much more than that.
  4. Patricia Alice

    Patricia Alice Registered User

    Mar 2, 2015
    Hi Andrea,

    It is very common what you are experiencing with your mum.

    My mum started off by buying big cauliflowers everyday, she would hide things, then at night start opening cupboards and drawers, getting everything out and then start tidying, folding paper napkins etc.

    My mum is in nursing dementia now and every day is groundhog day. She does not know where she is, although she can still hold a conversation, and remember her family in great detail, but she cannot remember what happened 5 seconds ago.
  5. Long-Suffering

    Long-Suffering Registered User

    Jul 6, 2015
    Hi Andrea,

    Yes, this all sounds very familiar. Lots of symptoms you mention are also true of my dad.

    Your mum has a lot of typical dementia systems.

    Best of luck.

  6. nicoise

    nicoise Registered User

    Jun 29, 2010
    It sounds as though the worst of your mums problems are to do with "executive function" - the areas of her brain most affected could be the frontal or temporal lobes in her brain, and they are responsible for that problem solving and planning that she has lost.

    So whilst she does have some memory problems, that is not her biggest issue. Fluctuating abilities and the ability to still hold conversations, although not always lucid, are very much part of certain types of dementia. The gently forgetful person who often appears in information about dementia is only one of the numerous ways that dementia presents in different people.
  7. AndreaP

    AndreaP Registered User

    Thank you all for your responses. I read the link and confess I am still confused about what type of dementia she has as she exhibits behaviours from all 3 types. However it it is clear she is in the mid stages of the progression of the disease.

    She does not seem much like the other residents in the CH where she lives. The high care area she is in seems to be full of silent, passive people with little to say. You can't shut mum up on most occasions :)

    She seems so normal in many ways that I often feel confused and frustrated. We will have a long coherent conversation about something and then 5 minutes later we have it again. For me this is the hardest part. I leave after a visit wanting to tear my hair out. I need to practise patience, unfortunately never my strong point.

    Thanks again:eek:
  8. 1mindy

    1mindy Registered User

    Jul 21, 2015
    My OH was diagnosed 3 years ago.. I have a friend who works with dementia patients who has been constantly telling me not to argue with him when he says very hurtful things and to practice patience. This is so hard when as you say we do have what appear to be coherent conversations. YESTERDAY I text her following one of his outbursts and told her how I handled it . She said the way I dealt with it was " text book , at last " . It's only taken me three years to realise our rational conversations are anything but. You will get there on the patience front. Just hope it doesn't take you as lo g as it has me.

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