Could My Loved One Be Faking Dementia
No one wants to believe that their loved one has dementia, and because no single test can conclusively diagnose all forms of dementia, it can be difficult to get an accurate diagnosis. Thus, many people believe that their loved one might be faking. A number of unique dementia features can compound this belief. Those include:
- The fact that dementia is inconsistent. A person may be better on some days and worse on others.
- Personality changes associated with dementia. You might mistakenly believe that the problem is depression, or that your loved one is being manipulative.
- Dementia tends to get worse at night. This is called sundowning.
Think Through Who Should Have The Conversation
Is there a certain family member or close friend who can positively influence your loved one? Consider asking that person to be with you or have the conversation privately.
Have you had a tough conversation with a parent about dementia symptoms? Share your stories and tips with us in the comments below.
Making The Decision About A Care Home
Eventually the day came that I had to make the decision to put Mum in residential care.
She had become increasingly impaired to the point it was no longer safe for her to live at home.
She had forgotten how to use the shower. Her oven had dust on it she had forgotten how to use it, and most often would forget to eat. I put in a hot meals service to try and navigate this issue, but Mum would either be out when they delivered her food, or she would place the foil containers on the side and forget all about them.
She would walk about constantly and then get lost. She took to withdrawing thousands of pounds from her bank account with her pin number written on the back of the card. I would finish work and have fifteen missed calls from her neighbours telling me that she, again, had been brought home by a member of the public, completely disorientated.
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What Can You Do When Your Aging Parent Has Dementia
Sometimes, you hear a diagnosis that hits you hard. A doctor says your aging loved one has dementia.
Sometimes, you just know something is wrong, it’s not getting better, and the only thing doctors say is “memory loss” or “mild cognitive impairment” . Does it matter what they call it?
What does matter is that you don’t get sucked into denial and pretend that everything is going to be the same from now on.
Unfortunately, we don’t get a course in school telling us what to do and how to be helpful when an aging parent develops dementia. We may not even be clear about what the word means. A startling reality is that by the time a person is 85 years of age, the odds of developing Alzheimer’s Disease, presenting as dementia, are about one in two.
Dementia is a symptom of brain disease, often Alzheimer’s Disease. We don’t have a cure and we don’t know the cause. We have good ideas about how to prevent it, but it’s too late for prevention when your aging loved one already has significant problems with memory loss. There is no medication that changes the overall course of the disease, though some medications provide temporary improvement in short term memory.
I was having lunch with a friend whose Mom has dementia. My friend asked, “What can I do for my Mom? She lives so far away. My sister is taking care of her. My Mom is difficult. I feel useless.”
If you want to “do something”, develop a clear idea about what that means. You do need a plan. Here are some suggestions:
How Dementia Changes Our Thinking Skills
Everyone agrees that people experiencing dementia are often unreasonable. But whether Im teaching families or professional caregivers, I rarely find anyone in the audience who understands that because dementia takes away our rational thinking skills, expecting people to use them and be reasonable or rational is no different than expecting someone who is blind to see or deaf to hear. Please think about this for a moment: if Ive lost my ability to use reasoning, why would it be helpful to explain to me why I should do something?
It is also rare that I find someone who understands that we all have two separate and complete thinkingsystemsand that only the secondary one is lost to dementia.
Yes, the rational thinking skills we lose to dementia comprise our secondary thinking system, not our primary thinking system. Our primary thinking system is our intuitive thinking skills. Its misleading to think of this complex and essential set of skills as intuition. These thinking skills provide us with the broad and unfiltered data that our rational thinking skills sort to help us make sense of the world around us. Without our intuitive thinking skills, our rational thinking skills would have nothing to work with and we could not function.
Read Also: How Long Is Each Stage Of Dementia
Signs Your Parent Needs To Be Tested
Just because your parent might be starting to forget things every now and then doesnât mean Alzheimerâs disease or another type of dementia is the cause. However, itâs important to be on the lookout for changes that arenât a normal part of the aging process. According to the National Institute on Aging and Mayo Clinic, these are early signs of more serious memory problems:
- Repeating questions
- Mixing up wordsâusing the wrong word to identify something
- Taking longer to complete familiar tasks
- Getting lost in familiar area
- Not being able to follow directions
- Changes in mood or behavior
- Confusion about time, people and places
- Neglecting personal hygiene
Your parent should see a doctor if he or she is experiencing these problems. Itâs important for him or her to be tested to see if symptoms are due to Alzheimerâs, another type of dementia or something else entirely. Dementia-like symptoms can be caused by depression, sleep apnea, thyroid problems, vitamin deficiencies, medication side effects or excessive alcohol consumptionâall of which can be helped with treatment.
Although there is no cure for Alzheimerâs disease, an early diagnosis will allow your parent to get treatment that can lessen symptoms. Plus, it will give you and your parent more time to discuss what sort of care he or she wants and to make a plan to pay for that care.
Talking With A Doctor
After considering the persons symptoms and ordering screening tests, the doctor may offer a preliminary diagnosis or refer the person to a Cognitive Dementia and Memory Service clinic, neurologist, geriatrician or psychiatrist.Some people may be resistant to the idea of visiting a doctor. In some cases, people do not realise, or else they deny, that there is anything wrong with them. This can be due to the brain changes of dementia that interfere with the ability to recognise or appreciate the changes occurring. Others have an insight of the changes, but may be afraid of having their fears confirmed.One of the most effective ways to overcome this problem is to find another reason for a visit to the doctor. Perhaps suggest a check-up for a symptom that the person is willing to acknowledge, such as blood pressure, or suggest a review of a long-term condition or medication.Another way is to suggest that it is time for both of you to have a physical check-up. Any expressed anxiety by the person is an excellent opportunity to suggest a visit to the doctor. Be sure to provide a lot of reassurance. A calm, caring attitude at this time can help overcome the person’s very real worries and fears.Sometimes, your friend or family member may refuse to visit the doctor to ask about their symptoms. You can take a number of actions to get support including:
- talking with other carers who may have had to deal with similar situations
- contacting your local Aged Care Assessment Team
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What Are Some Warning Signs Of Dementia
Any change in a loved ones ability to think or make decisions warrants a conversation and a trip to the doctor. Some of the most common warning signs of Alzheimers include:
- Difficulty planning, solving problems, or completing basic tasks, such as finishing a familiar recipe.
- Memory loss that affects daily life. For instance, a senior might forget their keys so frequently that they no longer feel safe leaving their home alone.
- Confusing time or place, such as by thinking they are in a different time or location.
- Increasingly poor judgment.
- Forgetting familiar people.
Many people see Alzheimers and dementia as synonymous, but Alzheimers is just one manifestation of dementia. Symptoms of other types of dementia can include:
- Memory loss or thinking changes associated with a cardiovascular problem, such as stroke or high blood pressure.
- Word-finding difficulties.
- Difficulty reading, writing, or understanding language.
- Sudden changes in personality. For example, a once reserved senior might become impulsive or aggressive.
- New or worsening mood issues, such as anxiety or depression.
- Changes in movement. Seniors with Parkinsons may shake, while those with frontotemporal dementia may have a slow or unsteady gait.
Be Aware Of The Signs Of Dementia
Although dementia is not only about memory loss, that’s one of the main signs.
Some of the other signs of dementia include:
- increasing difficulty with tasks and activities that require concentration and planning
- changes in personality and mood
- periods of mental confusion
- difficulty finding the right words or not being able to understand conversations as easily
You may like to suggest you go with your friend or relative to see a GP so you can support them. You’ll also be able to help them recall what has been discussed.
A GP will ask how the symptoms have developed over time. They may also do a memory test and physical examination. Blood tests may be done to check if the symptoms are being caused by another condition.
If other causes can be ruled out, the GP will usually refer your friend or relative to a memory clinic, or other specialist service, where they may have more assessments to confirm whether they have dementia.
Read more about how dementia is diagnosed.
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Sleep For People Who Have Dementia With Lewy Bodies And Parkinsons Disease
The type of dementia you have can affect your sleep.
People who have dementia caused by Lewy body disease, such as Parkinsons disease or dementia with Lewy bodies are often sleepy by day but have very restless and disturbed nights. They can suffer from confusion, nightmares and hallucinations. Insomnia, sleep apnoea and restless legs are common symptoms.
A person affected with these types of dementia may often unknowingly act out their dreams by shouting and moving around in bed.
They can even cause injury to themselves and/or their sleeping partner. This is called rapid eye movement sleep behaviour disorder or RBD, and tends to happen from the earliest stages of the disease onwards.
This can be exhausting and often leaves the person feeling like they havent slept at all, so they are very tired and sleepy during the day.
It can be hard to stay awake during the day after a poor nights sleep but, if possible, its best to try to limit sleep during the day to small bursts or catnaps. Otherwise the persons body clock can become very confused and this makes sleeping well during the night even harder.
Where Can I Get Help
Cognitive decline is common with age, but certain types can be more of a concern. Reaching out to get the recommendations and assistance of a specialist can address some of the decline and increase an older adults quality of life. If you are concerned about an older adults thinking skills, meet with your primary care physician to discuss whether a referral to a neuropsychologist is appropriate.
A neuropsychologist is a licensed psychologist with specialized training in assessment and treatment of cognitive problems associated with dementia or other neurological conditions. Early detection of abnormal memory decline by a neuropsychologist can be helpful in initiating appropriate treatment. Neuropsychologists play an integral role in the treatment and management of individuals with dementia, planning appropriate cognitive, psychological, and behavioral interventions, and training seniors with mild cognitive difficulty in strategies to improve daily functioning.3
Special thanks to neuropsychologist John Randolph, PhD, ABPP-CN and Liz Zelinski, PhD, and Peter Lichtenberg, PhD, of APAs Div. 20 who assisted us with this article.
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Signs That Mom Might Have Dementia
If mom or dad have any of the signs above, it is pretty concerning and could indicate that they have dementia.
What Do You Do Now?
Plan Specific Ways To Start The Conversation
Use these conversation starters:
- Ive been thinking through my own long-term care plans lately and I was wondering if you have any advanced planning tips for me?
- I was wondering if youve noticed the same changes in your behavior that Ive noticed?
- Would you want to know if I noticed any concerning changes in your behavior?
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In Time Mum Forgot Who I Was And Would Ask Me When I Went To See Her If I Had Seen Her Daughter
Sometimes shed call me Mum. I came to learn that though she had no concept I was her daughter, she did know me to be familiar, and safe.
As Mum stood on the precipice of the steep descent of final-stage Alzheimers, she became increasingly fearful and aggressive.
She began to hallucinate. She would crawl on her hands and knees under tables in search of the demons only she could see. And she would walk about, marching around day and night, in circuits around and around the care home, trying all the doors, babbling to herself. Most often I would spend my visits in tears that I tried not to let her see.
More About Dementia And Being Mean
Understanding how dementia changes our thinking skills is the beginning of understanding why someone experiencing dementia might be mean, and how to avoid getting aggressive and combative dementia behaviors.
But this is not a simple problem, so theres more to think about. In my next article, Dementia Anger Stage, Ill explain how wethe companions of people experiencing dementiaare actually in control of their moods rather than them. This is one of the key reasons for why relationships that include dementia are different from anything weve ever experienced before.
Also Check: How To Convince Dementia Patient To Shower
Is It Typical For People With Dementia To Sleep A Lot During The Dayblog
People with dementia, especially those in the later stages, can often spend a lot of time sleeping. This can sometimes be worrying for carers, friends and family. Find out why a person with dementia might sleep more than an average person of their age.
It is quite common for a person with dementia, especially in the later stages, to spend a lot of their time sleeping both during the day and night. This can sometimes be distressing for the persons family and friends, as they may worry that something is wrong.
Sleeping more and more is a common feature of later-stage dementia. As the disease progresses, the damage to a persons brain becomes more extensive and they gradually become weaker and frailer over time.
As a result, a person with dementia may find it quite exhausting to do relatively simple tasks like communicating, eating or trying to understand what is going on around them. This can make the person sleep more during the day as their symptoms become more severe.
Some medications may contribute to sleepiness. These include some antipsychotics, antidepressants, antihistamines and of course sleeping pills.
Sleeping disorders unrelated to dementia, such as having breathing that occasionally stops during sleep , can also contribute to sleeping for longer.
Can Dementia Be Prevented
While there are no known treatments or strategies to guarantee that an individual will not develop Alzheimers or other dementias, there are a few strategies that can help maintain cognitive health throughout life.
Given that stress can cause problems with thinking skills, older adults and their caregivers should regularly engage in enjoyable and relaxing activities to improve well-being and quality of life. Being socially active also appears to have benefits on mood and cognitive skills.1
Intellectually stimulating activities create richer connections between brain cells, helping to maintain or improve brain function even in the face of age-related reductions in brain tissue. And while there is an association between engaging in mentally stimulating exercises, the benefit of such activities to reduce cognitive decline are not confirmed. However, there is a growing industry in brain training or brain fitness exercises, and people who practice these exercises do get better at them.
Some studies suggest that there are long term benefits to these activities, but the benefits are related to overall physical well-being rather than cognitive functioning. There is no hard evidence yet that cognitive exercises prevent dementia. At this time, there is limited evidence that these exercises, while neurologically healthy, translate into objective everyday cognitive improvements such as recalling names more readily or remembering where you left your eyeglasses.
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