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Dementia or hypohondria or both?

greycat

greycat

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Joined
Oct 5, 2013
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9
It´s about my mother in law, not written as a complaint of a daughter in law, but as a concern of the entire family.
She is 78 now, lives alone in her house and takes care after herself, can manage the house and garden. All her health issues are "normal" for her age. We help her with shopping, doctor visits, medications, difficult chores ...
We are aware that mood swings and frequent "naughtiness" can be the result of an old age - but, in her younger years she was always bossy and is used to act like one. And she has some kind of disorder all her life long. It was always difficult to deal with her, now even more.
So the result is that we actually don´t really see if her behavior is really the sign of an old age or just the third act of her lifelong drama.
Shortly before Christmas she got some sort of a skin rash. It was treated from the very beginning, with various prescribed ointments and pills (which she actually threw away). It started on legs, but now it is, according to her in her intimate area.
In that period of time she gave us contradictory information every time: "Now, it is good, the rash is gone." and "It itches, hurts,I can hardly bear it."
She visited her doctor at least 6 times, we took her to the dermatologist (he said: "This is a skin irritation, try changing your washing powder or think what you have eaten.") to the gynecologist (she said: "There is really nothing to see.")
She is driving us crazy. One day I agreed with my husband that we should ask her to show me. She did and there is absolutely nothing.
We know she wants attention, we know she is alone, but we (and other her children) do our best to have her in our life, but we feel she wants to be the center and wants us all to live according to her rules.
She has neighbors who used to visit her, but they slowly begin to avoid her, because she talks about herself only. She was always different.
How to treat such kind of a person and remain sane?
 
T

tommysmom

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Jan 1, 2014
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102
Hi Greycat,
Since I'm 74,perhaps I can answer a bit. I don't think she is looking for attention re the rash. Has the doc ruled out hives ?; they can come and go and I've had them myself, albeit ,not on my private parts. If she's a drama queen about the rash but seems normal on all other subjects (baring in mind her normal may not be anybody else's ) ,then she may genuinely in distress. I may be suffering from the beginning of dementia myself,since my short term memory has gone on a long term vacation !
 
calypso

calypso

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This doesn't sound like any dementia I ever encountered. Sometime people who are elderly display depression in wholly different ways from those who are younger. It might be a thought to see if you ask her, what else she feels. Don't say, "are you depressed?" because I can predict she will say no. But asking her if she is sleeping well, does she wake up early, is she finding everything too much, is she eating well, etc. But obviously, don't ask it all at once! Slip it into the conversation, slowly in bits.

Sometimes also missing your partner, even if its years since they died, can also be there. Its hard to talk about feelings, so centring on a non existant rash is a way to ask for help. But she may not even know she wants help - its hard, I know.

But try to elicit other things from her. Try not to ask questions which can get a yes/no answer. So, questions starting with Why often help. Or just ignore the rash and answer the emotion she is showing, eg "you look really angry mum" or "you sound so low mum". etc.

I am sorry I missed this post earlier. I hope you come back to read replies.
 
deadchick07

deadchick07

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Feb 8, 2013
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1,296
it could be a number of things, physically, if there was a rash to start with, maybe it was shingles and shes been left with nerve damage that cant be seen but is excruciating? It could be anything, and doctors do fob off the elderly, and they are of a generation not to kick off at a doctor. Has she had blood screening done? ECG? has her circulation been checked? If you are wondering if it dementia, the GP may think the same and totally miss a real physical problem, that is clearly causing some distress xx
 
greycat

greycat

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Oct 5, 2013
Messages
9
Thank you: tommysmom, calypso and deadchick07 for your answers/observations.
My mother in law suffers from a high blood pressure, but is under constant treatment. Some 20 years ago, when her husband died, she suffered from a severe depression and was treated in a psychiatric department. Since then she takes medications and the psychiatrist has that under control. Yes, she does have sleeping problems from time to time, but then she gets a increased dose of her medication (in the morning and in the evening), when the problems cease, the doctor decreases the dosage.
All other medical examinations (blood test, EEG, even MR) have been done and the diagnose was that she has a weak heart and everything else is as expected in her age.
I might say she functions well, but our impression that her rash (which was there in the beginning - on her legs) is just a means to get our attention is, I believe, on solid grounds.

Our experience with her is that she has her mood swings and whimsies on a periodical basis, and when we pay really a lot of attention, she is happier. Of course, she is our concern, but we sometimes catch her in small lies.
Example: there are times when she complains she cannot do anything, can´t go to a nearby shop to buy some bread and then 2-3 days later she tells us that the very same day when she complained, she went to a mall in a nearby city (so she took a bus) to buy a wall clock for her kitchen.
The fact is, we do our best and she puts a bad consciousness issue to us.
Anyway, we will visit the neurologist later this month. Maybe, we will know something more.
 
T

tommysmom

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Jan 1, 2014
Messages
102
I went to do a very big shopping today ; my son always goes with me and helps but his pdoc says I need a vacation from him ,so I had to do it myself . ( I could have called a taxi-man who sees to me when I need him but I didn't ) I didn't think I could do it ;but I did . I know full well if there had been someone to take care of my shopping; I would have insisted that I couldn't do it myself.I don't think your mom was fibbing ; I think she made up her mind she wanted a clock and went to get it. She sounds bored to me . Some folks don't like solitude. Is she computer literate ? If not do you have senior classes available ? The "net" is a wonderful way to connect for us seniors. I've been taking a low dose of sertraline (zoloft) for years. I find it takes the "edge off" the unpleasant things in life . If you have access to a pool hydro-therapy does wonders for mind and body. Of course,if she' s afraid of the water.............that's a no go. All the best to you and tell your mom that there's a little old lady thinking about her in the Virgin Islands !
 
deadchick07

deadchick07

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Feb 8, 2013
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to be honest, every service user I have ever worked with has told me they can't do something to later be caught out by being spotted by me or others, or by social media giving it away. It is true, on a bad day they are being 100% truthful, and I'm pleased when they have a good day and can make the most of it. The art is to take the knowledge they have had a good day and relfect back on it with them. Read up on NLP neuro linguistic programming, its the art of talking to someone by reframing every problem as a solution.
 
R

Rose19602

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This doesn't sound anything like dementia.

It sounds like an old lonely lady, who "perhaps" needs people to understand her and help her.
With many meds, come many side effects. Rashes on old people's legs are very common - thin, fragile skin bruises easily too.

We know she wants attention, we know she is alone, but we (and other her children) do our best to have her in our life, but we feel she wants to be the center and wants us all to live according to her rules.
Difficult, but sad too. At 78 she isn't going to change, so tolerance has to be the way forward perhaps.? My mother in law was difficult too. I set limits and tried my best and was honest with her when she drove me crazy and told her why! She didn't always like it.... and I didn't always like her, but it was better than leaving her to be sad and lonely and we both knew where we stood. I also insisted that her son dealt with her if she was difficult with me. But it IS difficult, I agree.

She has neighbors who used to visit her, but they slowly begin to avoid her, because she talks about herself only. She was always different.
How to treat such kind of a person and remain sane?
Being "different" is something we're used to and proud of on here!

We try to resolve differences and help people cope with those differences, if they exist. Perhaps you should refer your mother in law to us, and we could help with that? Or maybe you could talk to your husband. She is his mother after all, and as you find her too difficult, perhaps he should pitch in?

I must say though that I think it is unfair to accuse her of hypochondria when she clearly did have a rash originally.
 
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greycat

greycat

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Joined
Oct 5, 2013
Messages
9
Thank you, I find every observation useful. My mentioning hypochondria was not the right choice of words, but the fact is that my mother in law used her initial rash (which disappeared) as a means to draw our attention.

We are all aware that she is lonely, but my husband and I are certainly not the people who would neglect her. It is more about the discord between her wishes and reality, which she can not fully understand.

She functions best when she is alone at her home where nobody can tell her what and when to do something, but at the same time she needs company who would enjoy the benefits of her mothering (which at her age she cannot fully perform!).

Further, when she is in our home, she is unhappy - she has care, a room for herself, but she feels out of place.
To be honest, right now I see no way out, this will be a circle until the day she passes away.

What leaves us frustrated is that we are giving her our best, but this is not enough.
 
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