Do you know if your're losing your memory?

Discussion in 'ARCHIVE FORUM: Support discussions' started by MJK, Feb 15, 2006.

  1. MJK

    MJK Registered User

    Oct 22, 2004
    #1 MJK, Feb 15, 2006
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2006
    Do you know if you're losing your memory?


    I've posted a couple of times about my Mum who has early stage dementia. We're waiting for a formal diagnosis, she's finally got an appointment at the memory clinic late next month.

    My question is, do people with dementia realise that they have memory problems?

    She's not at the stage where she forgets who people are, but she constantly forgets recent conversations (including important ones), loses things, gets in a muddle about dates, makes things up, gets extremely agitated when stressed, forgets words for things, can't spell. Lots and lots of little things (and some big ones).

    My Mum is adamant there is nothing wrong with her memory (we've never told her she has a problem, but the memory clinic appointment has made her raise it). She's already cancelled one appointment because she says she doesn't need to go.

    In your experience, do people know what's happening to them, or are they blissfully oblivious?

    I suspect that she really doesn't know there's a problem, just wondered what others have felt in similar situations.
  2. Kathleen

    Kathleen Registered User

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Sussex

    I don't know if everyone is the same, but this is how it began for us.

    My Mum was a very active,articulate and organised person, she knew she had a problem when she began to say her brain was "in a fog" and she could no longer think clearly, every day life was getting very frustrating and difficult for her. Names, reading, writing, losing things, unlocking the doors and even gardening were all becoming major problems.

    That was when Dad arranged for them to see the GP on the pretext of a routine health check as she was coming up to 70, this led to seeing a consultant about the "blood test results" and a diagnosis being made.

    Mum seemed relieved that there was a reason for her being so muddled up all the time and accepted the diagnosis amazingly well, considering her own Dad had suffered dementia some years ago and she always vowed if it happened to her she would "jump under a bus."

    Perhaps she had forgotten that too.

    Good luck at the memory clinic.

  3. Lulu

    Lulu Registered User

    Nov 28, 2004
    Hello MJK.

    My Mum was diagnosed with early stage dementia in 2004, and was exactly as you describe your Mum. In the beginning, she blamed things on her memory,became frustrated about it, got quite shirty if I suggested seeing her GP, saying there was no need as it was just 'old age'. Now, I can't work out if she knows anything anymore. I spoke to her about the diagnosis at the start, but she seemed to forget immediately, and perhaps she didn't even understood what I was saying. If we do visit the GP or even the Memory Clinic now, she thinks it's a visit about her headaches, or a flu vaccine. She has every appearance of being blissfully unaware ...which is perhaps as well!

    When we attended the Memory Clinic that first time, and were given the diagnosis, I WISH that I had been more prepared with a list of questions to ask them, because I thought of lots I wanted to ask afterwatds. You will be in a good position to do that, and I hope it goes well for you, I really do. I shall be interested to hear how it went.
  4. Lynne

    Lynne Registered User

    Jun 3, 2005
    #4 Lynne, Feb 15, 2006
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2006
    Dear MJK,

    Your Mum sounds exactly like mine, I could have written that post word for word about her.

    I suspect that my Mum does have some idea what's going on, but certainly does not wish to admit it, and definitely not discuss it openly. I think she's frightened of being 'put away'. She's 86 and an ex psychiatric Nurse herself, but when she was nursing 50 or 60 years ago, people with 'senile dementia' (nearly all forms of confusion and dementia in the over-60s were called that) were often just parked in a chair or bed in an institution, & died there. Ironically, that's one thing I would dearly LIKE her to forget, so that we could talk about how different things are now! (I might say that, until I started to view here, I knew very little about what's available now either, or about dementia for that matter!)

    I did get her to the doctor once (when she had had a bad chest infection, so I had an 'excuse') but she put on her public face - very convincing, until she got too cocky and told him a fib which couldn't possibly have been true! However, she wriggled out of attending a follow-up appointment, and I've been trying to get her back gently ever since. I know it sounds wet, but if I push her too hard she will dig her heels in, Big-time. So I'm working on it 'softly softly'.

    I think it's easy for us to under-estimate how frightening the whole thing must be for someone starting to experience Dementia. I believe that in the early stages they have moments of clarity and 'normality' during which they try to work out what's going on with them; are they losing their minds, are they losing control of their lives? The symptoms are scarey enough, let alone any attitudes from the past (like my Mum's) which may make them fear for their future lives. So I think it's important to try & remember that they are frightened when they seem to be obstinate or obstructive or uncooperative. If we become exasperated (and I DO, believe me I do!) it may seem as if they are losing their only trusted ally.

    Sorry MJK, this hasn't been very helpful, but I feel for your situation with a lot of understanding for how you must be feeling, 'cos I'm there too.
  5. ludwig

    ludwig Registered User

    Feb 8, 2006
    Dear All,
    It must be utterly terrifying going through dementia.
    My mum is mid stage and we tell her she just gets confused. Some examples:
    She has tried to go 'home' to a house nearby that she lived in as a child but was demolished long ago.
    She claims 'people are messing around with the days and dates'. She has phoned us many times from her home claiming shes elsewhere and needs picking up.
    My mum has tried to get out of the car at 50mph as we were 'home'. She has talked to me about 'my dad' her uncle (thought this was a scandalous family revelation until I realised she thought I was her cousin!). She claims to see things from dead cats and babies to people having tea, all in her living room. There was a major ruction when she accused my sister of locking her in a flat in a nearby town for a whole day (her furniture was in this flat and the convoluted thought process she went through to try to rationalise this was truly incredible) they actually went shopping for about an hour and my mum didn't get out of the car!

    Absolutely none of this is is mischief. She genuinely believes these things (and lots more besides) are happening to her. She keeps up a front that it is other people 'messing her about' and that she can manage on her own but it is patently not true and not even she really believes it.
    What basis for sanity do you have when these things are apparently happening to you and you cant discern what is reality and what is illusion? Yet there are clear patches as we all know.

    My heart absolutely goes out to people who have to go through this awful disease. Watching it happen in someone you love is utterly devastating, when you're part of a team of three children trying to cope is bad enough (as I am) but on your own.................words can not express my admiration.

    You are an absolute bunch of heros & heroines.

    Keep smiling
  6. Norman

    Norman Registered User

    Oct 9, 2003
    Birmingham Hades
    So many posts which I can relate too.
    So many of the things which also happen to my wife.
    Even after 7+years she is still unaware that there is anything wrong with her.
    Every night when I give her the Aricept tablet she asks me what is it for?
    I use the same answer all the time,
    It is for your memory problem"
    I am convinced that she is worried and frightened,but most of the time she is able to push it all on one side.
    She is becoming very "clingy" and asks "you will never leave me"?I believe a part of the fear element.
    So many variations amongst our loved ones
    Norman :confused:
  7. maggier

    maggier Registered User

    Jan 9, 2006
    Hi everyone

    My mum is exactly the same as you are describing, forgetting words, peoples names (although she knows who we are) but the thing I find most upsetting (and I suppose this is very selfish of me) is the fact that of all the people that mum sees daily (, me my brother, my sister in law, grandsons and a carerer ) she blames me and me only for absolutely everything that is wrong in her life, and she is very very nasty about it.

    The following are examples of what I hear every single day

    "Why did you get me this hearing aid, it doesn't work"
    the TV is rubbish, what did you get me this one for,
    why did you put me in this bungalow, I hate it here,
    Why have you got these people coming every night ( she imagines people are in her bedroom)
    Why have you got these women coming every day (the carers) I don't need help, it is you trying to get me put away!!
    When are you going to bring all my things back (apparently I have stolen everything she possesses including her money)
    Your dad was Ok until you put us here , so you killed him putting us in this place(dad died 5 years ago)

    My brother says I have to just ignore it, and he is probably quite right, but it is soul destroying when you are doing everything you can to try and help. Mum has a good word for everyone but me and often tells me how good people are to her and she doesn't know what she would do without them. But all I every get is anger and annoyance from her but that is how I make her feel obviously.

    I know it is not her it is the illness, but why is it directed at me all the time. Is this usual?. Maybe I am feeling a bit sorry for myself, I have not been well recently and have not slept properly since mum turned up at my house in the middle of the night because she was scared at home (when the imaginary people in her bedroom first turned up). But she only came to my house because she had already been to my brothers and could not get a reply.

    Sorry to go on, I cannot talk about this at home, because everyone says Oh just ignore it, and I think they are starting to get a bit fed up with me now but is is possible to love your mum to death, but just not like her sometimes.! because that is how I feel.

    Maggier x :(
  8. MJK

    MJK Registered User

    Oct 22, 2004
    Hi, Thanks to everyone for their replies. It's interesting to hear your different views. At various times some of my family have thought that Mum knows there's a problem but is trying to cover it up. I have mostly thought that she is unaware of it. Though it does keep going round in my head - "she really doesn't know....surely she MUST realise...etc."

    I completely agree with what was said that she is probably very frightened at times. She does tend to look permanently worried, and gets into an absolute panic if e.g. she loses her keys. It must be stressful just getting through the day without mishap.

    Her Mum had Alzheimer's for the last 10 years of her life, so Mum knows well the effects of this illness. So, to be hoest, I would prefer it that she doesn't know what's wrong with her. I think she would really go to pieces if someone told her she had AD (though we don't yet know whether that it the case). I'm a bit worried about how they will handle things at the memory clinic. She is already stressed enough about going - her sister is taking her so you can make sure she actually goes this time. Over the last 15 months she has seen three GP's, who all recognise she has dementia, and this is as near as we've got to an actual diagnosis! Nothing seems to happen quickly!!

    Anyway, thanks again for all your views.
  9. Bets

    Bets Registered User

    Aug 11, 2005
    South-East London, UK
    Hello Maggier,

    Sorry to hear what a hard time you are having. My husband knows he has memory problems but it doesn't seem to bother him - he uses mine instead!

    I can only reiterate what everyone else on TP will tell you - it's not your mother being unkind, it's the illness. I know this, too, but, frankly, it doesn't always make it any easier to deal with and to understand, especially when you are living with it day after day, year after year and never getting any sign of appreciation whatever. My husband seems to have no insight at all, but I tell myself this is probably a good thing.

    However down you feel today, you will feel better. That's been true for me for the last seven years although I admit it's sometimes nigh on impossible to remember that on a bad day!

    Kind regards,

  10. Nutty Nan

    Nutty Nan Registered User

    Nov 2, 2003

    I'd like to respond to almost every sentence that has been written on this thread - so many parallels!
    Last night, something occurred to me: why is it always so much easier to solve someone else's problems? Not just here on TP, but even within our families.
    Here we all are, full of useful suggestions for our loved ones who are suffering with AD (or similar) - Day Centres, Medication, Sitters, Carers ...... and we wonder why they don't jump at our suggestions. Are they unaware of the problem? Are they covering up?
    I am sure it is often a bit of both. And isn't it quite simply human nature? Most of them have coped with all that life has thrown at them for longer than we have. They have been the carers, providers, nurturers. They have been giving, doing and coping, they are not used to being passive and looked after, and they are not used to throwing the towel in......
    ...... any more than we are: I am not the one suffering from AD, I am the carer. But my 'faults' are exactly the same: I am frazzled, frustrated, worn out and scared of what's ahead, yet in broad daylight and in public I put on this smiley face and chirpy voice, I accept our little lot and "it's no worse than other people's problems". I wouldn't dream of 'giving up'. Yet at nighttime, I often wonder just how much longer I can cope, and when I occasionally lose the plot altogether and have a good old shout or a sob I realise that I am not really coping all that well, and that perhaps it will take something or someone to make me give up this battle to manage caring for my husband, and to make the most of the good times (that doesn't mean I would own up to it the following morning, though!).
    I think that's what's so difficult: the massive gap between the good and calm moments, and the difficult, angry and aggressive ones.
    I am rambling - time to get off and do something useful.
    Best wishes to all!
  11. inmyname

    inmyname Guest

    All the things said by others here apply to my Mother 89 and she says "oh my brain" whenever she wants an excuse for her mess ups

    However she switches from aparent normality some days to total oblivion and all stages in between ...........on good days she could convince an eskimo he needs a fridge !!

    She is argumentative , nasty , accusitory and downright difficult and yes I am in the firing line for everything

    Theres no way she would even believe any doctor who gave her a diagnosis and she claims the rest of the world is mad but not her

    My patience ran out ages back and theres no way on earth i could care for her and sorry but if i tried it would simply destroy me in the process

    The only thing that might shake her enough to face reality is if she is stopped from driving by the police ..........the current form completion DVLA system is simply not tough enough to stop the likes of my Mother
  12. Amy

    Amy Registered User

    Jan 4, 2006
    Hiya Imnyname
    From what you say, I doubt if even the police would do any good, they would be mistaken too! Hopefully a time will come when your mum is less argumentative, but from what you have said elsewhere, it sounds as though that has always been part of her nature, and the dementia is exacerbating it. Try and keep smiling, do what you can, and find others to do what you cannot do. Caring for our relatives is ensuring that they are kept safe, that as far as possible they do not harm themselves or others. I must admit, if you really feel your mum's driving is unsafe I would be tempted to lose the car keys, and if necessary I wold talk to the police to see if there is anything they can do. I know it sounds drastic but I think that is the way I would go.
    Take care.
  13. Lila13

    Lila13 Registered User

    Feb 24, 2006
    My mother knows. She says "My memory is going" ... "My mind ... I do mind" and "I keep muddling up my words" and "how would you like to have a dose of aphasia?" Once she said "yesterday I couldn't even remember my own surname".

    I've a feeling she knows better than anyone else what is going on inside her head.

    I keep saying "you are much better than you were a few weeks ago" but it isn't much comfort as neither of us really believes there'll be constant improvement.

    I try to emphasise the things I think it's most important for her to remember, and just hope they will help.
  14. rummy

    rummy Registered User

    Jul 15, 2005
    It must be terribly frightening to realize your loosing your marbles. Mom knows but has been really good at covering for herself. Those who don't visit often think she is doing well, ha! Her classic phrases are, "I knew that", "that's what I thought", "That's right", "I remember it that way too", and my favorite....." I'm not stupid you know."
    She's a stuborn little woman and will go to the bitter end saying she is as healthy as a horse.
    Lately, she has declined alot. I about crashed last month from depression and have decided I just have to take myself out of the equation. In that I mean from now on I am trying to make this about my folks and not about me. My misery, my grief, my loose, my my my.....
    I will just do the best I can for her and try not to personalize everything. So far, I am managing much better. We shall see!

  15. Lila13

    Lila13 Registered User

    Feb 24, 2006
    It is very difficult to take oneself out of the equation, especially when there are so many around telling me to do this, do that (and then, when I've done it "you do too much for her" so you can't win!)

    And when I think "my folks" the most important person in that list of "folks" is my mother herself.

    My mother can get by with people who don't visit often just by agreeing with everything they say too.

    I feel as if I am losing large chunks of my own memory because I've lent it to her to try to compensate for what she's lost.

    I suppose you really need to make a hierarchy of memories, in most circumstances you don't need to remember your own surname as there are enough others around to remember that for you. But ... if you go out for a walk, please remember where you live! and if you forget the key remember which neighbours have spare keys.
  16. Margarita

    Margarita Registered User

    Feb 17, 2006
    Just a thought

    why not go to the jewellers , & ask then to engrave your mum name & address on a gold plate, get a nice chain & put it around your mum neck, if you can get your mum on a good day tell her its for her own safety, in case your mum does forget & gets lost ,I have heard about bangles rummy may no more about them as I read it some where on an USA site .

    The keys is harder what about giving them to both neighbours on each side of your mum house?
  17. Lila13

    Lila13 Registered User

    Feb 24, 2006
    I wrote all the most important information on a piece of paper and suggested that she should take that with her when she goes out for a walk, but there are so many pieces of paper, by her bed, on the fridge door, the dining table is covered with them.

    She says she always keeps her passport in her handbag (but she doesn't always remember to take her handbag with her).

    I did suggest tattooing my phone number and my brother's on her arms. He says make her wear a collar with a tag, like a dog's, or microchip her.

    I wonder if she'd agree to wear a bracelet.

    At least where she is now lots of people know where she belongs. And they say "where's your daughter?"
  18. Lila13

    Lila13 Registered User

    Feb 24, 2006
    Sometimes I get the impression that everyone I know has a memory problem. That's because when they say "Why don't you do this, why don't you do that?" etc. and I try to tell them, and then they repeat the same questions again.

    What they mean is of course "we aren't listening because we are bored with this topic" ...

  19. rummy

    rummy Registered User

    Jul 15, 2005
    Hi Lila,
    You sound very stressed and I've been there often so know how you feel. We can't leave my Mom alone even for a moment. If I gave her a bracelet to wear she would take it off and forget where she put it ( we are still looking for her bra's, sigh)
    When I said "detached" it may have been a poor choice of words. What I mean is I recognize that I cannot make my Mom happy because nothing is going to make her happy. I can't change her circumstance because I am not in control of that as she still lives in her home with my step Dad. I can't be her sole entertainment and activity center because I have other things going on in my life, a husband, a job, a household to maintain of my own, etc.
    What I am trying to do is give her the time I can, make sure her needs are met as well as I can, make sure she knows I love her and that she is important to me.
    Heres the BUT......I am not going to take anything that happens personally. I am not going to tear my guts out when she takes another step downward and I am not going to live, eat and breath alzheimers. It is too all consuming if you let it be.
    Of course, I will not be able to live up to this all of the time but I am making the effort because I have been much happier since I've been trying this. It also is better for Mom if my frame of mind is good.
    I really hope this helps you. Try to step back and take a deep breath.
    take care
  20. Lila13

    Lila13 Registered User

    Feb 24, 2006
    Luckily I can leave my mother alone, for quite a long time. Not sure how long because of course we never know when she is going to do something really silly.

    I can at the moment make a difference to my mother's state of mind. There are still some things that can make her happier and I am one of those things.

    I am not in control of her circumstances but I am part of her circumstances.

    I am not going to live, eat and breath alzheimers, either. (I don't even know whether she has Alzheimer's of course, others assume that that is what it is.)

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