JODI, Gillette Wyo.: My mother who was diagnosed about 4 years ago with the onset of Alzheimer's is now displaying anger towards my Dad and my brother who is living there to help out. She is extremely nasty one minute and fine the next. She is not violent and still knows everyone, but will not leave the house. Will antidepressant medicine help out with this daily up and down rollercoaster ride?
BEVILLE: This is the worst part of the disease. She is aware that she is becoming more and more impaired and also aware that everyone sees it and she can do nothing about it. It would anger anyone and most likely directed at people close to her. I would suspect that her fear of going out of the house is directly related to a fear of not finding her way back, even if someone is with her, fear that she will run into someone and not know who they are and generalized anxiety at not being in her own environment. For now, bring people to her so she can have visits. This alone may help cut down on some of the swings.
A few words of advice about the visitors. They must be happy people who don't give a flip about the disease. They shouldn't overstay. Short visits are best. If your Mom has a hobby or games she likes to play, have a planned visit, if not, just keep things upbeat. Encourage the visitors to do a great deal of talking. If she gets overwhelmed, nothing is worse than a long silence where she thinks she is the host and has to fill it. When she starts to get agitated or can't seem to stay in one place, gracefully, end the visit.
Of course, I would check with her doctor, make sure you have these mood swings documented for at least several days and when they happen. Document if and when it is suspected that she is showing the signs and symptoms of depression. Depression goes hand in hand in the early/mid part of the disease. Please go to www.alzfdn.org, it will help you see the signs and symptoms. If the Doctor feels it would be a good idea, yes, it could help even out those mood swings and the Doctor may have other suggestions as well. It goes without saying, but be sure the Doctor has experience with Alzheimer's disease. Very important.
D.J., Kannapolis, N.C.: My mother is 67 years old. How do I know if my mother's sometimes forgetfulness is normal, or if it is something that needs to be watched or addressed? What are the chances that she, or even I could get the disease? I will turn 50 years old next week. I'm not sure what definite signs or symptoms to look for exactly. Thanks for whatever insight you can give me regarding this disease.
BEVILLE: The way I feel about the odds is that knowledge is power over this disease. I would recommend the sites below to help answer some of your questions well.
If Alzheimer's disease is in our families, we all start to worry. I really think that some of your fear will be allayed when you go to some of these sites listed below.
Visit www.alzheimers.nia.nih.gov, or send them an email: firstname.lastname@example.org/alzheimers/publications/caringAD