Your Alzheimer's, Memory Questions Answered

Question: My mother was diagnosed with dementia when she was 75 years old. She is now 89 and in late-stage. I have heard that if a person has late-onset dementia that it is less likely to be inherited. In other words, if my mother would have gotten dementia when she was much younger, than my chances of getting it would be increased. There are several people on my mother's side that have had dementia (three of her first cousins). Does that also increase my chance of getting it?

Answer: We have received many questions like this. We suggest those of you interested in learning more about heredity and Alzheimer's take a look at our answers on risk factors and diagnosing Alzheimer's by going to the Alzheimer's question index here.

Of particular interest to you might be the answer to the question: How Does Family History Affect The Risk Of Developing Alzheimer's Disease? There are also answers to questions on the Alzheimer's diagnostic process and genetic testing. Take care.

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Question: I heard that dementia can be caused by taking Excedrin PM or Tylenol PM. Is this true?

Answer: We address this question in a story we wrote about sorting out Alzheimer's myths. You can go to the piece by clicking here.

Your Alzheimer's Questions Answered

Question: My 88-year-old mom is now getting extremely combative when her clothes need changing or her hair [needs] washing. She lives at home with my 90-year-old dad. I am her daughter and I help out as often as possible. Any suggestions as to how I can handle her and make the "clean up" during these episodes less confrontational? My dad is from the old school and vows to take care of her till the end, but I think he won't be able to handle her much longer.

Answer: First of all, the problems you note are very common, but that information doesn't make the problem any easier to deal with. Indeed, most physical and verbal aggression occurs while providing personal assistance to persons with dementia (PwD), and is often a reaction to the perception of threat.

Combativeness during dressing or bathing is frequently related to:

  • Touch or invasion of personal space.
  • Frustration due to declining abilities.
  • Discomfort (e.g. bath water too cold or hot, arthritis making it painful to put her arm through the sleeve of her sweater, etc.)
  • Loss of personal control or choice: Do you want to wear the blue dress or the red dress? Preserve the dignity of a simple choice the PwD can make -- not an open ended question like, "What do you want to wear today?"
  • Lack of attention to personal needs or preferences (e.g. always took a shower at night, now has to be bathed in the daytime).
  • Unfamiliar routine; uncertainty about what is going on and why.
  • Feeling unsafe or afraid of the unknown. (Taking clothes off can be terrifying if you no longer recognize who is doing it to you.)

Some things you might look at:

  • How is your mother taken to the bathing area? Is she appropriately covered before, during and after the bath or shower?
  • Is the room and water at a warm temperature, is she comfortable and can you play pleasing music in the background or add pleasant smells?
  • Is pain a problem? Would Tylenol 30 minutes before bathing or dressing help? Are limbs stiff due to meds or disease processes?

Suggestions (some work, some don't):

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