Could this be dementia?

Discussion in 'ARCHIVE FORUM: Support discussions' started by BeadieJay, Apr 23, 2007.

  1. My mother has been unwell for a couple of months, the most obvious symptom is that her memory has gone. She can't remember if she's been out unless she looks in her diary. She sleeps most of the day, has stopped going out on her own or with friends, and will only go to do food shopping if my dad is with her. She's stopped going to the hairdresser (she used to go every week), and she can't hold a conversation any more. It was my birthday yesterday, and I was so thrilled that she remembered to phone me, but she couldn't seem to get off the phone quick enough and didn't even ask how my children were, and she loves her grandkids very much.

    I live quite a distance from my parents and am having to rely on updates from my sister. She has told me that mum is on anti-depressants, and that blood tests have come back negative. My sister is planning on taking mum back to the doctor's in a couple of weeks time if she's no better, and insist on a second opinion - not that the doctor has really given an opinion, other than there doesn't seem to be anything physically wrong with her.

    I asked my sister if she thought mum had dementia or alzheimers, and she said that it definitely wasn't either of those as they don't come on so suddenly, which is how mum's deterioration has happened, it was almost overnight.

    I was wondering if this is true or not? And if dementia/alzheimers only manifests itself slowly over time, does anyone have any ideas what could be wrong with my mother? She'll be 80 yrs old this year.

    Thank you in advance for your help :)
  2. jenniferpa

    jenniferpa Volunteer Moderator

    Jun 27, 2006
    Hi Beadiejay and welcome to TP

    On the understanding that no one here can diagnose dementia (or anything else) I have to say that a stroke can definitely produce dementia symptoms "overnight". This is how it affected my mother. Dementia can have a variety of causes, if by dementia one means reduced mental capacity. It took me sometime to come to terms with the fact that my mother has dementia as a result of her strokes: she's not running around with an axe, or screaming abuse or drooling: she simply has total short-term memory loss. I think sometimes people who haven't been exposed to it think dementia is a more "active" state: people doing and saying strange things, but it can be much more "passive": not remembering how to do "regular" things. In your place, I would be pushing for a CT scan to assess if she has had a stroke. I wish I'd done that when my mother first started to exhibit memory loss.

  3. Grannie G

    Grannie G Volunteer Moderator

    Apr 3, 2006
    Hi Beadie Jay, welcome to TP.

    It must be very worrying for you, especially when you don`t live near your mother, to think she may be starting with dementia.

    It will only be the doctor who will be able to give a diagnosis, but I can tell you, from my own experience with my mother, that the onset of dementia didn`t stop her going out, going to the hairdressers, or talking on the phone.

    The doctor is probably right, your mother`s behaviour is symptomatic with depression, but medication for depression takes a while to be effective.

    Your sister is right to go back to the GP if she`s still concerned.

    Both my mother and husband developed symptoms of dementia, slowly, so slowly that it was only in hindsight, we realized how long before diagnosis, they had shown signs.

    Keep in touch and let us know how she gets on.
  4. sue38

    sue38 Registered User

    Mar 6, 2007
    Wigan, Lancs
    Hi BeadieJay,

    I'm not sure if AD can come on so suddenly, but I think most people find when they look back that the symptoms have been happening for some time.

    My Dad was originally prescribed anti-depressants which we now think led him to become withdrawn, more confused and he showed a lack of interest in other members of the family.

    I think your Mum needs to go back to the GP. It may be AD or may be the effect of the anti-depressants. There may be other anti-depressants which may be more suitable.

    Sorry, that's too many may be's!

  5. Helena

    Helena Registered User

    May 24, 2006
    Vascular Dementia can IMHE come on rather suddenly

    There will have been many warning signs beforehand but these are easily overlooked until you peice things together later when it all makes sense

    However it is VITAL that your Mother is tested for Thyroid Disease because this too can cause same symptoms and also is insidiously slow at revealing itself fully and is far too often misdiagnosed as depression

    A CT scan would soon confirm mini strokes / infarcts
  6. Thank you all so much for your replies.

    I hadn't even considered that mum might have had a stroke, and I'm sure no-one else in the family has thought of that either. I will definitely mention it to my sister so that she can ensure mum gets checked for that, and also for the thyroid.

    The more I think about the stroke, the more I'm beginning to believe that might be what happened.

    Before it was obvious that mum was experiencing memory loss, she kept saying to me that she didn't feel "right". She didn't know what was wrong, but she wasn't feeling herself. So, maybe there was something physical afterall. Would a stroke show up on a blood test? Even if it could, I think the lab would have to be asked to check for that specifically (just going on my own experience of blood tests).

    I'll phone my sister tomorrow, hopefully she'll be able to persuade mum to return to the doctor sooner rather than waiting a couple of weeks to see if the pills are helping.

    Thank you again, and I'll definitely update this post with any news.
  7. jenniferpa

    jenniferpa Volunteer Moderator

    Jun 27, 2006
    No, I do not believe that there are any blood tests that could be used to diagnose a stroke. Generally, they tend to suspect strokes if there's either a history of high blood pressure or heart problems (my mother hit the jackpot with both), but even with those known health problems, there can be a tendency on the part of some GP's to say"oh it's old age" (see my post above) . On occasion, before her strokes, if my mother's BP was overly high, she would describe it as feeling "funny", but I'm afraiid that's not very specific!

    Edite to add: I suppose a blood test could indicate abnormal clotting.
  8. Helena

    Helena Registered User

    May 24, 2006
    My Mother was always saying she did not feel right or its just old age or some excuse

    It was clear in later years these funny turns were more and more frequent

    I think given your latest post that a mini stroke /vascular dementia is very high on list of causes
  9. Lila13

    Lila13 Registered User

    Feb 24, 2006
    We suddenly became aware of my mother's dementia but of course don't know how long it had been going on before that, I think her next door neighbour knew first but didn't say anything to us. (Well, you wouldn't, would you? not until there was something definite that had to be told.)

  10. Margarita

    Margarita Registered User

    Feb 17, 2006
    #10 Margarita, Apr 24, 2007
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2007
    That what my doctor said to me then I notice my mother was getting very forgetful , just notice a change in her , so doctor said she was depress , so gave my mother ant depression tablet , but then my mother also has diabetic , now I found out they is a link with diabetic and dementia. (If not treated with medication, or like my mother not understanding the implication of not taking her medication properly )

    Hopefully when they tasted for that in blood tested for diabetic and it show up negative.

    I do hope for all your sakes its just depreesion and she just under stress and worry about something , as if your under a lot of stress that can show up like System of dementia , but is not dementia .
  11. Gromit

    Gromit Registered User

    Apr 3, 2006
    Sorry to hear about your Mum - its very distressing especially when you aren't nearby (I can empathise with you on that one).

    Sounds odd that the symptoms are so sudden, so it could be something else - like a mini stroke or something as others have mentioned.

    My Dad's symptoms were more gradual but to be honest as others have said it really is only in hindsight that you pick up on all the tell tale signs.

    There are however many other things that could be the cause - but unfortunately it really is a process of elimination. I would push for the tests you need, CT scan, check for UTIs, Thyroid etc. You and your sister may have to be quite assertive on this - luckily we had a good GP and the memory clinic consultant was also very good at getting the CT scan for us.

    I will keep my fingers crossed for you, and do keep in touch.

    Take care

  12. Nebiroth

    Nebiroth Registered User

    Aug 20, 2006
    Your Mum needs a professional diagnosis. Your first port of call should the the GP. If dementia is suspected then the diagnosis will normally be done by a specialist consultant.

    It may be possible to ask the GP to arrange for something like a "regular checkup" or something like that, at which point, Mum's memory and other problems can be "discovered".

    AFAIK Alzheimer's Disease is usually marked by a slow progression, in fact people can have it for years and their problems are initially dismissed as "forgetfulness" or simply "old age". Only when things become more marked do alarm bells really ring - which is what happened with us. We dismissed Dad's lapses of memory and constantly replacing words in conversations with "whasnames" as old age. But when he started talking about his long deceased mother and sister living with us or being on board his old navy ship and so on...

    On the other hand, other dementias such as that associated with strokes can be marked by a rapid onset and sudden deteriorations.

    There is nothing to stop people having more than one type (mixed dementia) too.
  13. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to reply, I really appreciate it.

    I've left a message with my sister about mum maybe having had a mini stroke, and that she needs to be tested for that, even if it's just to eliminate it as a possible cause for her illness.

    Unfortunately, my sister is a teacher and her school is having an Ofsted inspection next week, so sis is working well into the night at home, so I'm not sure how quickly she'll be able to get mum to the GP.......If we're lucky, she'll be able to persuade my dad to take her (he has his own problems). It's times like this I really wished we lived closer :(

    Thanks again :)
  14. A little update.

    I spoke to my sister today, she saw mum today and they actually went out for some lunch. I wanted to know what my sister thought about my suggestion that mum had had a stroke (I'd left a message on her answerphone). She told me that our cousin, who is an optician, also thinks mum had a stroke, so now my sister is taking it slightly more seriously :rolleyes: (I'm the baby of the family and my opinion is never taken seriously about anything - I'm used to this, but am grateful that my cousin had the same thoughts).

    Anyway, my sister still isn't taking things as needing urgent attention, and maybe they don't. Because she's got an Ofsted inspection at her school next week, she won't be able to take mum to the doctors till Thursday or Friday evening, that's if the doctor's is open late enough for her to get there. I can't understand why she isn't telling dad to take mum, but maybe she wants to be there as dad wouldn't be able to remember everything the doctor said due to his own memory problems, so I guess she's doing the best she can. I know it's not easy for her, working full time and being a part-time carer.

    My husband offered to go down and take mum to the doctors, but I think mum would find that even more confusing - she wouldn't understand why my husband was there and not me (I find it difficult to travel, and need help, so if I went down to my parents I'd have to take at least one of the kids with me, which mum would find overwhelming - according to my sister), arrgh, it's all so complicated :eek:

    Do you think it matters that mum won't be seen by the GP for almost a week? I'm seriously wondering if she maybe had 2 strokes, the first one left her feeling "not right" and the second one affected her memory and concentration etc. What if she has another that does even worse damage?

    Sorry, I'm rambling, it helps so much to have this friendly place to unload all my problems. Thank you so much :)
  15. jenniferpa

    jenniferpa Volunteer Moderator

    Jun 27, 2006
    Well, obviously I'm just taking a stab in the dark here, so take what I say with a pinch of salt. As I understand it, there's a "window of opportunity" when treatment "may" be effective to minimise the damage from a stroke, but that window of opportunity is measured in hours not days. So from that perspective, several days probably isn't going to make a great deal of difference. This issue of whether she might have another one is another matter. If she has, for example, undiagnosed high blood pressure, or some condition that causes her to form clots, then she could have one tomorrow, next week or never. Having said that though, even if you could get a doctor to see her right now, it probably wouldn't make a great deal of difference to her prognosis. This is partly because there's not a great deal that can be done to ensure a stroke won't occur. Anti-coagulants and hypertensive medications all have their place, but they're all about reducing the risk, not removing it completely. So while it might be excellent idea to make the people around her aware of the stroke indicators, (see below) there really is very little point in stressing yourself unecessarily.

    Stroke Indicators

    1. Ask the individual to smile.

    2. Ask him or her to raise both arms.

    3. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "It is sunny outside today"

    If they have any problems with any of these call 999

    This is all very theoretical of course and ENTIRELY based on my own experience. This is NOT medical advice - just what I've picked up, so as I said, be aware that is a PERSONAL opinion.

    Try not to worry (easier said than done) or the person they'll be carting off to hospital will be you!

  16. noelphobic

    noelphobic Registered User

    Feb 24, 2006
    Did anyone else read this and then actually follow the instructions themselves? :eek: :eek:
  17. jenniferpa

    jenniferpa Volunteer Moderator

    Jun 27, 2006
    Well Brenda, how did you do?

  18. noelphobic

    noelphobic Registered User

    Feb 24, 2006
  19. LOL, I didn't until you mentioned it :rolleyes: Actually, I have a good excuse, I was half asleep when I read it first, over an hour ago - my daughter woke me up from my much loved weekend lie-in by phoning from outside the house to say that she was home from her sleepover and could I please let her in - didn't hear the doorbell - was so embarressing, :eek: but we ended up having a lovely mum and daughter breakfast together without the boys around!! :p

    Jennifer, thank you for your post, I'll try not to worry. I think the hardest thing is not being able to do things myself, having to wait for others to sort things out. I guess you must feel that a lot being so far away as well. I've never been a very patient person, I want all the answers now, now, now :rolleyes: :D
  20. jenniferpa

    jenniferpa Volunteer Moderator

    Jun 27, 2006
    Well they say patience is a virtue. Pity it's not one of my virtues :)


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