Could This Be Alzheimers?

Updated on January 20, 2011
J.C. asks from Rustburg, VA
16 answers

I love my MIL very dearly, but I'm concerned about her. We recently spent a 10 day vacation with them, and there were a lot of things she forgot, I guess. She'd often remember things she forgot, but then there were several times she was very adament about things. For example, she told my hubby and I that she saw they are coming out with a Pirates of the Caribbean 3. We told her they already did. She insisted that, no, they hadn't and there were only two and we were wrong b/c she JUST saw that it was coming out. We knew they were on tv recently, when we DVR'd them, and so we thought she might be confused about that, but she actually got angry that we were disagreeing and told us we had no idea what we were talking about and it wasn't just on tv, they were making it, and they'd only made 2, so this was the third. Then another time we were sitting at the dinner table and we mentioned how we have some families here that live on roads named after them, which they don't really have there. We mentioned one name in particular, and she turned to my 5 yr old son and said, "Didn't you have a bus driver with that last name?" My son said, "No, my bus driver's name is Mr. ____." She said, "Yeah, but didn't you have a bus driver with that name when you were in middle school?" He replied no again, and she started getting angry. She asked again, like my son wasn't listening to her, but he was. He just wasn't his father. We corrected her, and we all laughed, but hubby and I were concerned. And there are little things like that that happen decently often. To me it seems like it's more than just forgetting, though she does that a lot. She really was grilling my 5 yr old b/c she thought he was her son. She was looking right at him, grilling him. And I will say my mom gets names mixed up, but my MIL is so much worse. We're 800 miles away from her, she's a nurse, and she gets very angry when someone tells her no or that she's wrong, or just does something she doesn't like. I don't want to go behind her back, but this seems to me like it's more than just age. (She's not that old, only 65, but she did party and treat her body badly in the past.) Her mother lived to 90 though, or older. These weren't the only two things that happened though, either. There were more. But everything I looked at had all these other warning signs that I don't think she has or at least I don't see them. I don't think she's a danger to anyone or anything, I just worry that if it is something that could be medicated and we don't medicate, it could take her from us a lot sooner than we'd like.

**I did see that there is a Pirates 4 coming out, and I never really doubted she saw something, I just wasn't sure what it was or when it was. We did mention that to her though, at the very beginning, that it was a 4th, and that started her anger and arguing about it. So I'm not really sure if that's better or if it changes anything at all.

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answers from Washington DC on

might be alzheimers, but memory loss and mood swings have lots of different causes. plain old dementia can bring these on and not have anything to do with alzheimers.
alzheimers is ADD for the elderly. it's the first thing everyone assumes.
it's time for evaluation with a good physician. there are things one can do to slow the loss of memory function and keep the brain active, and if she does have a condition that requires meds she needs to get started.
i'm so sorry. this is hard to deal with.



answers from Cumberland on

It could be something else-is there anyone she would listen to that could talk her into getting an exam? Is she on any medications that would conflict and cause these symptoms? Would she go for an MRI and a MRA of her brain? Does she have a best friend that will be able to get her to start the process?

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answers from Chicago on

My mother showed signs for years before we caught on..... Once we did she did not want to face the truth. Please move forward carefully but she needs to discuss these issues with a doctor right away. In the early stages the meds really do help. The problem for us was mom didn't accept help, told us that she was getting older and that what happens with old age. I hope that you and her son can gently bring this up to her and offer to go to the doctor with her so you can all have a conversation that comes from your concerned heart. Just know that sometime medication that she may be on could cause confusion so don't jump to the alzheimer conclusion right away.

Also, know that when someone is confused the last thing they want is someone to prove them wrong. If this is alzheimers you are dealing with you are going to have to let go of the right and wrong mentality.

Good Luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Lynchburg on

Dear J.-

My my was 'diagnosed' with alzheimers recently...I feel for anyone who is in this situation with a loved one...and it is good that you and hubby are concerned.

One thing I did was set my mom up for an appointment at a 'senior services health center'. She had an 'internist' at the time, but he did not see some of the concerns...

I approached it with my mom that as she aged, this center had a spectrum of docs that dealt with ALL issues of aging (and they do). Perhaps there is something like that in your area? I called ahead, and made the appointment FOR her...and took the liberty of a 'pre appointment' with the intake nurse to address my concerns. She was MOST helpful! Your mom in a nurse...may be open to the possibility od docs that deal specifically as specialists FOR people as they age.

I also contacted the local alzheimers organization in my area...and they happened to be beginning a series of workshops on this topic in my area as well. I have been attending some of those.

Private me if I can be of help. Good luck!


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on


If this is new behavior then you should be concerned. Anger is very typical in regard to memory loss because when the person is wrong or corrected they become more confused and this upsets them......equals anger.

This could be memory loss but not necessarily alzheimers disease. Could be related to cardiac issues. I know this because we are going through something with my Dad right now. I also know there are new medications that could slow such a process.

Bottom line..... it would be helpful for your MIL to be evaluated by a specialist, but how would she react to such a suggestion? The family needs to get together and talk about the best way to approach her. Be prepared that you have limited control of the situation and may not be able to get her to do what you want her to do..... at least not right away.

This could also be depression...... is she going through some sort of transition? She may just be combative because she is unhappy. Lots to consider.

Best of Luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

A couple of years ago the mother of my best childhood friend came to my baby shower. I had not seen her for a few years and her son and I are fb friends but rarely see each other. But when I was little he was my best friend and she was like a second mother to me.
At the shower she would make statements about my childhood that were completely incorrect - like that we had moved off the street 30 years ago. I was 32 at the time and reminded her that we had lived on that street until I was 12. She got very angry with me that I was correcting her and kept insisting I was wrong. I finally had to drop it cause she was getting so worked up. A few other smaller things came up too over the course of the 2 hours.
Turns out she had some other medical problems that were diagnosed a year later. They put her on the medication she needed and she returned to her normal self. It was not alzhemeirs, but unfortunately I can not remember exactly what it was. I do know it was diagnosed only after she had a very mild stroke from which she has completely recovered, but the stroke was a result of what was wrong with her too.
Your MIL needs to be checked for anything that could cause this sort of confusion, not just alzhemiers. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I would discuss it with her doctor. There is a difference between Dementia and Alzheimers. Alzheimers is a specific disease. Dementia can have any numbers of causes, from medication interaction, to a urinary tract infection, and anything in between.

Check into the meds she is one and see if any have a dementia side effect listed. Also, check her for other symptoms of a UTI, like frequent or burning urination. Not all infections have physical symptoms though, so the doctor is the right place to start.

I work specifically with Dementia residents in a long term care facility, and it amazes me that when someone starts acting out, it is usually due to a UTI.

Good luck, if it is the beginning stages of alzheimers, there are meds they can give now to slow it down, and also some over the counter and holistic treatments for memory retention.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

I hear you! My mom is not displaying belligerance & anger, but is seriously forgetting a lot of stuff.

I have noticed that she will cycle thru her conversations.....repeating her opening subjects at least twice. Sometimes she'll catch herself, sometimes she has no memory of discussing the subjects. Scares the heck out of me.

I have addressed these issues with her. She was devastated & then confessed that she had stepped down from her public office due to a sense of disorientation over details/memory. She spoke with her dr....whom I HATE....& was told that it's all a part of aging. Baloney! I truly believe she needs to be tested for early onset Alzheimers & am still pushing for that testing.

My heart goes out to you.....

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Well though the disease can not be stopped at this time, medication may slow the process down and can help her feel better.
Everyone forgets and you can get frustrated but becoming angry and drilling someone could be something more.
Signs of Alzheimer's can be acting paranoid, thinking someone is undermining them. Hoarding food or papers. Even seeing things that are not there. Sleeping habits change too. Over all their personality changes. Sometimes if they were passive they become aggressive and the other way as well.
Things that can really bring about this symptoms is stress and changes to their daily schedule or being out of their normal environment. Travel can really bring signs to the surface. My dad was in really bad shape after a few weeks in Japan with my mom and that's when we knew something was wrong. Before we had asked the doctor and he told him that he was just aging and not to worry. Wished we would have been more aggressive with it and got him on meds sooner. It would have helped everyone.
The disease can take anywhere up to 10 to 15 years to completely progress though my dad left us in 4 years and is a very emotional journey for everyone.
Hoping and praying for your family.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I would be concerned by this behavior, too. I have not had a close relative with Alzheimer's, but I have read that anger is a typical symptom, along with forgetfulness. She should be evaluated by a medical professional.



answers from Norfolk on

My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's about 3 years ago. He was forgetting some simple things (ex. we would tell him we were going to dinner at XYZ restaurant and we're leaving at 6 and he would ask several times what time we were going or where we were going). Things went on like this for about 2 years only getting very slightly worse and then it seemed like overnight he was not able to remember big things. He was living in FL for the winters and he'd go for a walk and not remember how to get home. He couldn't remember names of family members. Now it's gotten even worse in that now he can't remember what occupation his friends have, his brother's home looks foreign to him even though he's been there a million times over the last 40 years, and he was in the house he grew up in and couldn't remember it. He is still able to do lots of things though. He's living with me for a few months and helping out with projects that need to be done (painting, putting shelves in a closet etc...)

While what your MIL is going through MIGHT be normal aging it COULD be a form of dementia like Alzheimer's. I strongly advise you or another family member to take her to her doctor and describe the symptoms. If her doctor feels like it could be dementia I then STRONGLY advise you to have her see a neurologist who specializes in dementia. We waited much too long to do that and then found out my dad should have been taking 3x the dose of med that his PCP prescribed. If he had seen the neurologist at diagnosis he might not have progressed as quickly as he has. Now it's too late. You can't go back and fix it you can only move forward. I understand how tough this is and if you need an "ear" please feel free to mail me. Good luck and act QUICKLY!



answers from Washington DC on

Dear J.,
As a daughter of a mother who passed from Alzheimer's, I would say yes. As you are describing her, she is not only forgetting things, she also is having stronger than typical moods. This is very usual of Alzheimer's. That she was talking to your kids as if they are her kids would indicate to me that it is some type of dementia and that it has advanced a bit.
Okay, first let me say that if it is Alzheimer's, I am so sorry because I understand the ordeal that you have ahead of you. But, I am going to give you some advice.
1. Get her to a neurologist NOW -- ASAP. I can't stress this enough. The current medications for Alzheimer's do not stop the disease, they only slow the symptoms and they only work if the disease is diagnosed early. Alzheimer's typically goes through three stages. The second stage is very difficult with the patient largely being hard to manage and not clued into normal reality at all. During the third stage, the patient is bed ridden and slowly loses the ability to even swallow. The disease often lasts up to 15 years. The medicines keeps the patient in first stage or early second stage LONGER, so that you have more years of quality life with her. My mother resisted going to the neurologist and my father respected her wishes. That did not have a good outcome for my family. So, get her there whatever it takes.
2. You need to start thinking about getting her a caregiver and soon. I don't want to scare you, but one of the first clues my mother gave me about having Alzheimer's was that she got disoriented while driving a very accustomed route and she started driving up an off ramp onto a freeway against traffic.
3. If she is diagnosed with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia, be realist and be prepared. Read everything you can on the disease and make logical and step by step plans to care for her as a family. It is an extremely difficult disease and the decisions you will have to make are equally difficult. You will need to talk them out and pretending that the disease won't progress will not go well.

Again, I really hope that she does not have Alzheimer's and if she does, I am sorry. The best you can do is to make these years as happy for all of you as possible.



answers from Boston on

Yes, it sounds like Alzheimers, or another form of dementia. I know you don't want to go around her back, but she does need to get in to see a doctor ASAP. I am so sorry that you have to deal with this. Good luck.



answers from Washington DC on

Here is a simple test I saw on TV yesterday. A doctor explaint Alzheimer that way. Forgetting the keys could be a sign on old age. Forgetting what the keys are for and do is a sign of Alzheimer.


answers from Norfolk on

It might be, but then again maybe not. What medications is she taking? Sometimes as we age we need lower doses than we once took.
Is she on any cholesterol lowering medication?
I was on Lipitor and then Zocor for a few years and I had a horrible reaction to it. I never would have known it if I hadn't run out of my mail order prescription and had to do without for 2 weeks. I was in my late 30's and my hips, fingers and joints were killing me. I thought I was getting arthritic. Also my memory was degrading very badly. I once drove down a road I traveled on a regular basis for 10 years and suddenly I had no idea where I was. 15 min later I was ok but it was scary. I'd get things on a shopping list and completely forget I'd already purchased those items the day before.
When my prescription ran out and I was off the medication for 3 days my joint pains disappeared. My scores on anagram games tripled. I felt better than I had felt in years. And then my refill came in. I began taking the medication and within a week I was limping again. Finally I just stopped taking it altogether and had a talk with my doctor. She would not believe the medication was causing the side affects. I told her it was simple as far as I was concerned. I take the drug and my memory and joints are shot. I don't take the drug and I feel great. Cholesterol levels be darned, it was a quality of life decision. I walk a mile a day now and my memory is as good as it ever was.



answers from Richmond on

yes, boys and girls, this is alzhimers. my first mother in law and her mother both died raving from alzhimers. the absolute best thing you can do is have a very frank talk with her family and explain point blank that YOU will not be her full time nurse, so dont bother to ask. then, the entire family needs to sit down together and discuss the situation openly and calmly. no finger pointing or guilt trips, and leave the egos at the door. alzhimers patients always become violent eventually, as i learned from taking care of both my mil and her mother, and your mil has obviously decided your son is an easy target .
K. h.

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