View Full Version : Can dementia get a hold this fast?

19th Oct 2018, 15:45
Curious one, this.

Mrs BBEís mother is in her late 80s and lives independently alone. All ok up until 6 months ago when she asked my wife who was the nice man who sat in the restaurant with us - me. Her short term memory seems to be disappearing rapidly. Unless things are written done for her, she canít retain them and even needs a phone call to remind her to read the messages. Weíve arranged a care company to accompany her shopping and to check her list (she was buying the same items week in, week out whether she needed them or not!) and a mobile hairdresser. However, she will ring my wife up two days later and ask if we can just pop over take her shopping - we live two hours away. She seems to think we are still living locally. MIL is still keeping herself and her house clean though and dresses smartly and appropriately.

Mrs BBE made an appointment for her with her GP in early August and she has been referred to a memory clinic in early November. Blood tests were run and her thyroid and B12 levels are all ok. The disturbing thing was today when the wife rang her, MIL started asking her if she was the eldest child ( Mrs BBE is an only child!) and what her brothers and sisters were called.

Clearly, there is some sort of dementia type issue but can it onset as rapidly as this? She seems to gone so rapidly down hill this year. Sadly, she is also a very lonely woman and has always suffered from extreme high anxiety throughout her life. Iíve often suspected that she was an undiagnosed BI Polar sufferer but because she had an almost morbid fear of mental illness, she would never seek treatment.

19th Oct 2018, 15:50
I believe that vascular dementia can have a rapid onset. It certainly seemed to be the case with my late grandmother, who went from being an independent lady in her mid-70s to needing 24/7 care in the space of a few months.

Private jet
19th Oct 2018, 16:16
An elderly aunt of mine went from onset of initial symptoms (short term memory loss, "what day is it today?" etc) to needing full time residential care in the space of six months. After a further six months she was at the stage of not recognizing anyone & playing with dolls. It was dreadful to see that decline.

19th Oct 2018, 17:26
My mother-in-law went from aged, physically strong, and rather grouchy and unwilling to communicate, to completely ga-ga within about six months. The trigger event for her most rapid decline was full anaesthesia to implant a pace-maker, when she never really came back "up" from that, but it was clear before that that she was not her old self.

It seems that dementia is increasing in the aged population, but I have not bothered to read up on whether that really is so. It might simply be that I myself am joining the aged population so that I notice it more.

I had an interesting encounter with a woman about my age who had lost her short-term memory completely. We had a very interesting chat about her career with Time-Life publications working in Paris with some of the top photographers of the day. Then she asked me what I was doing (studying photography), after which we went on to other topics. 5 minutes later she asked "And what is it you do?" as if the topic had never come up. Her sister shot me a warning look then, so that I just told her again what I had told her not long before. The rest of her seemed to be fine; all that was missing was her short-term memory.

My best advice is to not take dementia personally, this having to watch someone sort of slowly sink as you can't catch them and pull them back to the surface. What helped me was having done some air ambulance work, when you need some emotional distance to do that sort of work. Going all touchy-feely is no use at all, although you do need to avoid seeming completely unfeeling.

19th Oct 2018, 17:49
My daughter is a specialised doctor.

In the case of my ex mother in law dementia occurred almost overnight and it can happen that quickly.

19th Oct 2018, 18:12

I have direct experience of this problem through the very rapid deterioration of my late fathers faculties through vascular dementia. The process was very rapid and was associated with increased inability to communicate. In his case there were historic complication factors name-ably a head injury suffered 6 years previously and the effects of an Heart Attack. His deterioration occurred over a period of approximately four months and may have been accompanied by associated undiagnosed TIA's. Yes your assertion is all to possible, I regret to say.


19th Oct 2018, 18:15
Thank you for all your replies - much appreciated. I guess we kind of thought of dementia as a slow and maybe steady decline but clearly, this is not always the case. Chucks hit the nail on the head describing it as watching someone sink but being unable to pull them back to the surface. Ironically, MIL was a formidable and forceful character who had very strong opinions and wasn’t afraid to express them on many occasions, despite her ongoing constant anxiety. She seems to be retreating into a vulnerable and rather shrunken woman now.

The one, tiny relief is that we organised financial and health LPAs last year when she was still capable of clear decision making.

19th Oct 2018, 18:17
Sadly two members of my extended family also went that way within a few months in their 80s. Very sad.

19th Oct 2018, 18:23
Dementia is a truly dreadful thing for families to have to deal with. I think the saving grace is that the person with dementia may well not be as aware of the distress as those around them. My lasting memory of my grandmother is going to visit her with my mother, not long after she went into a nursing home, as we couldn't care for her any more at home; she needed 24/7 nursing. When my mother and I walked in, she looked at us blankly, then seemed to remember my mother, but asked who the strange man was (me). My mother told her who I was and her response was "but you can't have a son, you're not even married!". She then refused to speak to me or look at me, and it was clear from the conversation that her memory only covered the time up to around WWII, everything after that had gone. I left, and never saw her again, as she wasn't the same grandmother who'd spent hours teaching me Irish Gaelic when I was a small boy any more, or telling me off for telling her Irish jokes.

Kerosene Kraut
19th Oct 2018, 19:46
Had an aunt with dementia that turned out to be some early state of Alzheimer's disease. That is some very unfortunate tragic fate. The brain doesn't work anymore. It gets worse and worse. She finally couldn't breathe as her brain could not send the nerve signals to do so anymore.

19th Oct 2018, 20:16
My grandfather was 4 days from able to live by himself to nursing home.

Vascular dementia is a bitch. After the initial hit over 6 months his short term memory went down to under 5 mins. But he could remember D day and serving in France perfectly.

One conversation I found out that my Father had a half sister in France from his time over there. Didn't bother telling the rest of the family.

The first period of semi awareness there was something wrong was the worst. After the memory regressed back to his early 20's it was easier even though he couldn't remember me as a grandson. He was still sharp as hell at playing whist though, I don't know how that works out with short term memory loss, in fact he was more clinical and brutal at it after going dolally.

19th Oct 2018, 20:56
I have always wondered whether being active mentally with computer hosted social media and investigation might defer Dementia and similar effects. From the ones in my family who have succumbed to this they all seem to be semi housebound and, apart from normal domestics, spend their time watching the TV.

Personally I think that that would drive you around the bend as there is no active participation in the same way as twitter or Facebook. This is probably because they are of a generation that has not grasped, or needed to grasp, the internet.

I am hoping that internet time will keep my conscious of the world and keep the cells in tune.

Unfortunately I destroy this twice a week down at the pub.

19th Oct 2018, 21:05
I think there might be something in that theory, Fareastdriver. One thing we have noticed when we visit MIL, is after about 15 minutes of our arrival, she starts almost to ‘warm up.’ She seems to become more like her familiar personality again, is more animated and her short term memory is certainly improved. These worrying conversations where she rambles are almost always on the phone. The situation is compounded by hearing loss but she stubbornly refuses to wear her hearing aids as she ‘doesn’t need them.’

I’m pretty sure that she’s not been down the pub though. Mind you, meeting people there might even do her some good.

19th Oct 2018, 21:07
my grandads doctor reckoned it was to do with AL pans which were all of craze for some 30 odd years before they went out of fashion.

I did say what do you think the fuel and brake lines would be like on a 90 year old car?

"aye true enough they would be stuffed as well"

BTW there may also be a link with satins as well but that's a bit of a taboo subject.

19th Oct 2018, 22:57
...........Unfortunately I destroy this twice a week down at the pub.

The other five times you drink less?

19th Oct 2018, 23:42
I thought my mum might have been heading down the dementia route shortly before she died. Conversation with doctor in hospital who had been told by my sister that I'd queried it asked why I might think so. Short term memory was lacking while long term memory was as good as ever. Still recognised everyone, but couldn't recall eating or whatever. Doctor thought I was right. Potential problem solved naturally a few days later. My sister-in-law who is very stoical found her mum's deterioration hard to cope with...

I think exercising your brain is as vital as exercising your body as you age.

20th Oct 2018, 02:13
My doctor sister pointed out that keeping blood pressure down can result in inadequate blood flow to the brain and resultant dementia, especially in older folk with aged pipes.

You're walking a fine line between stroke and dementia.

As for pacemakers, there's a difference between getting one to continue outdoor activities and getting one to prolong your final stay in a care home.

As with any op, the key question is :

Will I be able to return to independent living afterwards?

20th Oct 2018, 09:43
I think exercising your brain is as vital as exercising your body as you age.

I dont suppose it can do any harm but I am always discouraged when I read of the likes of Iris Murdoch and Bernard Levin. Murdoch died only two years after publishing her last novel - her descent into dementia was rapid, particularly marked when you consider what a towering intellect she had. Similarly Levin, a journalist noted for his trenchant comments on all aspects of politics and society suffered from Alzheimers for the last 10 years of his life, and died from the disease at the relatively early age of 75.

I'll continue to attempt The Times crossword every day but I notice more and more blank squares when I put the paper down. Do you think regularly contributing on PPRuNe helps as a substitute?

20th Oct 2018, 10:28
TTN I'd say it is because it is social interaction and the same as going to the pub, visiting friends or whatever. My mum mostly sat at home.on her own for the last several years and peetty much the only person she saw was me when I popped round. She'd had a fall while out, got a pacemaker but lost her confidence. Aged 90 mind you.

20th Oct 2018, 12:20
TTN I'd say it is because it is social interaction and the same as going to the pub, visiting friends or whatever. My mum mostly sat at home.on her own for the last several years and peetty much the only person she saw was me when I popped round. She'd had a fall while out, got a pacemaker but lost her confidence. Aged 90 mind you.

This is so interesting. As I mentioned earlier in the thread, MIL seems to warm up after a while when we visit. Consequently, she becomes more logical in her reasoning. I do wonder think there is a real case for the importance of social contact. Iíve started to realise that I use often Mrs BBE as a sounding board for ideas, and likewise she does with me. Itís not always actual conversation but thoughts expressed out loud. When youíre on your own, you contain those processes and Iím beginning to think, because thereís no outlet for them, they can become a confusing jumble and muddle.

20th Oct 2018, 12:23
Treadi, I bought my mum before she left us, something similar to this



it was simple to use with no charges, she had a alarm to hang around her neck so if she had a fall when no one was there, if she pressed the button the phone would call and play a message to three independant numbers, it would cycle through them until it got an answer, even if it was answered by an answering machine it would instruct the person on the other end to press a key, so it would ignore answering machines and start dialing again, it also when answered it turned into an intercom so you could reassure / talk to them if near enough to the phone.

20th Oct 2018, 12:42
There is so much we don't know. It's cause could be genetic, or lack of brain exercise, or diet, or knock on the head, or virus, etc, etc.

I recall a friend's mother journey into full blown dementia over a number of years, often they would sit her in the taverna which was a loud and lively full of constant social activity. In the early stages should would eventually remember who I was, in the latter stages she would just sit like a zombie for hours on end. Then one day, after many years of silence she opened her mouth and greeted me, then asked how my clan was even reciting their names, then she went back to her zombie state.

20th Oct 2018, 21:43
Nutty, thanks, we had a pendent alarm for mum which rang a call centre - used in anger a few times.

My aunt (92) has one too, but that phone would be useful as an additional comfort for her. Any idea on the range, she had a fall in the garden which knocked her confidence - the pendent worked well and an ambulance came but it might be good if several neighbours were instantly summonable. My aunt has brilliant neighbours, kindest people you can imagine...

21st Oct 2018, 13:46
To the OP, very sadly yes.

21st Oct 2018, 14:46
My father was 89 and, for an 89 year old, very fit and mentally very sharp. He read the paper every day and followed current events and rugby and cricket. He fell on an icy pavement one day while out getting the papers for himself and the old lady next door and broke his hip. He was in and out of hospital for about 6 months due to some complications and when he eventually went home his mind had changed completely. He was barely able to communicate and was dependent on carers coming in 4 times each day. Various tests were performed to see if he had a stroke or any other brain injury but nothing was found. He died at 93 with a cause of death listed as dementia.