Old Age or Dementia?


When I first noticed Mom’s personality changes a few years back, I wondered if there was more to it than just a mellowing with age. There was plenty of news about dementia and its early symptoms, which put me on the alert. In spite of my suspicions, Mom was not officially diagnosed with dementia until last year, when it had become painfully obvious to me and others that her abilities had markedly declined.

Generally speaking, Mom’s symptoms were a change of personality from something else to simple and cheerful. From being particular, she became easygoing. Though at times, she would anxiously call about things being missing, and one of us would have to go and find whatever has been misplaced. It also seemed conversations became much simplified and complex ideas could not be understood. So there was memory loss, personality change and also a loss in ability to manage complex functions.

So for the few years while my suspicion flared off and on, Mom was managing on her own, and in retrospect we might have done better. Mom’s dementia is a combination of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, and by the time she was diagnosed, the brain scan showed multiple old strokes. Such strokes might have been reduced had Mom taken her medication for hypertension and high cholesterol regularly. In fact now, one year after her diagnosis, she seems to have stabilised (touch wood) and I attribute this to having regular meals, regular medication and less anxiety overall.

I have an acquaintance whose father had been getting more forgetful for the past 10 years. He would typically repeat his questions, forget where he was and what he had been doing. Nonetheless, the family just put it down to old age and did not seek treatment, believing nothing could be done. Lately, he started having difficulty walking and adding two and two, and so finally a brain scan was done. This showed a shrunken brain with multiple old strokes all over.

I know it is said there is no cure for Alzheimer’s dementia. But Alzheimer’s is not the only type of dementia there is. Sometimes similar symptoms are caused by depression, thyroid problems or other issues in the brain such as strokes. Some of these can be treated and managed.

A year ago, I had believed Mom could only go downhill inexorably. Time has proven me wrong, and I am grateful for all the people around me who have rallied to help me look after Mom.

My point is – if someone is showing early symptoms of dementia, have it looked into. It might be treatable.

 

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10 thoughts on “Old Age or Dementia?”

  1. Thank you for following my Bananas and Prunes blog. Your post was very helpful and informative. I know that Mom is going through some form of dementia but I’m having a terrible time getting her doctor to listen to me. I actually blogged about it (Wellness Check) and how frustrated I am. I’ve scheduled another visit in a week or so and will insist on a Nuro checkup and, if her doctor won’t help, I’ll find another physician. I’ll be back for more from your site. Thank you so much.

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    1. Thank you for reading.
      It does seem dementia is a diagnosis that is made only when the symptoms are significant. If symptoms are too minor and the blood works are normal, the diagnosis is delayed. In Mom’s case, she could pass the screening test even when I knew she had deteriorated significantly. Good luck in your search for the answer. Will be back to read your blog too.

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  2. You’ve done a wonderful job here with this post. There are some dementias as in the case of dementia from dehydration or adverse drug reactions that are “curable”. Sometimes when going to the eye doctor they can look into the eye and see if any strokes have occured.

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  3. Our experience with our mom was so similar. The family knew things weren’t right but it took the doctor a very long time to give her some simple tests that would confirm our fears. I’m still not convinced all the medical testing that could be done were but I’m not her primary care giver and live across the country from her. She is being well cared for and is content and those are the main things. Thanks for your post. Very important to say those things and get information out as this is affecting millions.

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  4. My dad also suffered from Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. His brain scans showed much damage from mini-strokes. I just read your post about walking. It’s all so familiar. My dad became disoriented spatially. He fell out of bed. He hit his head. That is how Alzheimer’s ultimately caused his death. So many do not realize the disease is more than just problems with memory. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    I’m glad your mom is doing well, and time has proven you wrong. It’s lovely to hear how tender your relationship is–so patient and caring. Hugs to you.

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