Taking care of elderly parents isn’t easy, as Kit, (not her real name) found out.
Kit sat in a corner chair, during one of her mother’s doctor appointments. Her mother was perched on the center exam table. Kit pointed out to the doctor that her mother was acting odd, belligerent, even though she was snippy before, her mother, was acting more childlike sticking out her tongue when the doctor turned his back, becoming angry when she was asked questions. If the conversation wasn’t about her, she became angry and demanded they spoke only about her.
Kit pointed out her mother’s unconventional side; the anger, over reacting, her bad traits were no longer controlled. She gave me an example, “years ago, when she saw a spider she would scream and wash all the floors. Well, now,” she added. “She hires people to spray for spiders. She has them spraying in places she never had spiders, just in case they get in the house. She hires multiple people to spray for those spiders.” Kit rolled her eyes. “I tried to explain, that spraying, all that poison is bad for her health. She didn’t understand at all.”
- · Understanding what is dangerous can’t be comprehended.
- · Passage of time starts to become murky.
- · Childhood fears emerge and there are scary things hiding in corners.
Kit’s mother was able to handle her own bills, and clean her house. Her hearing was going and she refused a hearing aid. She thought people were talking about her. She was hearing singing and doorbells.
Senior Services delivered weekday meals. Kit called her mother daily. But, if Kit tried to check the bills, or noticed her mother’s cleaning wasn’t as it used to be, her mother became angry and yelled.
Kit had the Senior Services visiting her mother, they evaluated her and warned Kit that her mother, one day, may no longer be able to live alone, and when that happened she would be removed from her home and placed in a nursing home. Kit tried to talk her mother into moving closer, even into her own home, her mom refused. She didn’t want to give up her independence.
Kit did what she could to keep her mother safe. However, what she didn’t know was that the medical community was hesitant to consider a person unable to live on their own, and Kits mother had the ability to cover up her problems. Kit’s mom had underlying mental health issues she had lived with for years; her mom learned how to control her impulses. As she got older, she was losing control.
“The U.S. elderly population will grow by nearly 80 percent in the next 25 years” ~ abcnews.go.com
Mental health as we age doesn’t always change your personality overnight. Just as age/time sneaks up on all of us, age related dementia changes a person’s personality slowly, so if you see the person monthly you may not notice. You may notice they can’t comprehend new things, and are having trouble negotiating old ones.
Example: Unable to follow directions from the store or unable to comprehend a crossword puzzle when it was something they loved to do.
While Kit’s mother was in rehab for blood-clotting problems, her mom was given an order by her neurologist to get a psychological examine for dementia, but dementia is a roller coaster ride, the ups and downs can’t be diagnosed in a five minute examine. She was misdiagnosed and went home with Kit.
Illness changes life fast. Dementia is confusing for everyone.
Dementia patients can’t handle stress. They need their world to be the same and calm, with the same people around them, a schedule set and with the sounds of home; televisions, people chatting, the smells of home cooking and laughter, lots of smiles and a gentle touch. They eventually will need help bathing, eating, dressing and someone else to do the house cleaning.
Any stress will cause them to become agitated, angry, paranoid, mostly scared.
If you are in your 50’s, you may be living vicariously through your elderly relatives who are in their 80’s and 90’s. We are talking years old here not disco, big hair and boy bands.
Are you taking care of an elderly relative?
Have you noticed a personality change?
How old do you feel?
Contact you local county Senior Services for meals on wheels or click here.
Download here a PDF -Factsheet: The progression of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias