I called to chat with June, my mother in law. She sounded out of breath and anxious. I asked if everything was okay. At first, she said yes but when I press she told me what had happened.
June has lived in her hometown for well over 50 years. Today, she got lost going to visit a friend.
“I almost ran out of gas!” she told me. And I couldn’t find Annette’s house. I don’t know what happened. Furthermore, I have been driving around and around for 3 hours. Finally I found my way back home. I was really frightened.” She confessed.
This was a subdivision that June had been to numerous times. She had several friends who lived there and Annette was one of her best friends. She has spent a lot of time at Annette’s house over the years.
Time to Take Action
My husband and I both agreed. There was a real problem. And this wasn’t the first incident that rang the alarm bell. Could mom be hiding dementia? There had been jewelry that had gone missing. It was even reported to the police as stolen only to be found later stuffed inside of a sock in her drawer.
Most likely something frightened her.
Maybe it was a knock on the door. She hid her jewelry and then forgot she had done so. This is not uncommon with someone with dementia.
“Nanan hid all of her jewelry. She would accuse different people of stealing from her. She even accused my mom! “Tracey told me about her grandmother. “It was awful. I felt so sorry for mom. And the bad thing was mom’s brother Jerry believed it. He thought she was trying to get her inheritance early.”
“We found all of the jewelry with the exception of one emerald ring. Jerry was convinced my Mom had taken it. But about 5 years later when Granddad decided to move the ring reappeared. As we were leaving the house my intuition kicked in. I decided to run my fingers through the swag on top of her dining room drapery. That’s where I found it!”
Something Needed To Be Done
June didn’t have any family living in her hometown. She had two sons. One was about 4 hours away and the other lived 12 hours away. And the one who lived farthest had not visited in about a year and a half. A lot of changes can happen to a senior in that amount of time.
Mom Sounds Just Fine
And he refused to believe there was any problem. “I talk to her every week. She sounds fine to me.” He said. Even after his younger brother and his wife told him what was happening. The missing jewelry, getting lost and ordering internet service when she didn’t even have a computer. The issues were stacking up. But Mike would not hear of it. As far as he was concerned mom was just fine. In fact, he insinuated that we were making things up.
Dementia Does Not Follow a Straight Line
The symptoms come and go. They leave families confused and bewildered. One day your loved one seems perfectly fine. You have a good conversation and all seems well. Then the next day they make no sense at all. Furthermore, in the early stages, someone with dementia can be really clever. There is a part of them that is aware something is not right. The instinct is to protect themselves. They pretend everything is okay so no one will notice. Hiding dementia from your adult child may not be that difficult.
Far Away Family
Adult children who rarely see or spend time with their parent are easily fooled. The truth is nobody wants to believe that their parent had dementia. So, they do this dance together. And it may sound like this.
Son-Hi Mom. How are you doing today?
Mom- Fine son. How are you? What are you doing?
The son then begins to tell Mom all about his life. What he is doing at work. What trips he is taking. How his wife and the kids are doing and so on.
Mom-That’s wonderful. I am so proud of you. Give everyone a hug and a kiss for me.
Most of the time he will spend a lot of time talking and very little time listening. And of course, mom sounds fine.
If he does ask a question or two Mom will have a stock answer.
Son-What did you have for lunch?
Mom-A bowl of soup!
Since he only calls once a week or two he will not notice her reply is always the same.
Son- What are you doing today?
Mom- Playing cards with the ladies.
And he doesn’t ask any further questions that may help him discover she has not seen her lady friends in weeks. They stopped playing with her because she was always forgetting the rules.
Hiding Dementia- How Can You Tell?
It is important to ask more detailed questions. Ask which friend she is playing with. Ask about each of these friends. How is their health, their husband, their children? Also, ask where the card game will be played. And what time she is going? The more questions you ask and the better you listen will determine if you can see the full picture. If mom gets frustrated with your questions she could be hiding the fact that there really isn’t a card game.
Regular Visits Are Important
It is critical that you visit several times a year. And more if you suspect there is a problem. Furthermore, talk to friends and neighbors. You may find these conversations very enlightening. A lot of times friends and neighbors hesitate to “but into your business.” However, if you ask what they think or what they have noticed you may be surprised.
When you visit try to spend enough time to get a good picture of what may be going on. Let mom do everything. This way you can observe her normal daily routine. This will give you a better vision of what her needs may be.
If you suspect mom is hiding dementia, talk to professionals. See if there is a Life Care Manager in her hometown. Hiring someone to give you an outside professional opinion of what Mom’s needs are can help to keep her safe. Visit Sycamore Creek Ranch Memory Care. Even If you are not ready for placement today you want to be prepared. Plus the professionals here can help you to understand what may be going on with the one you love.