vitamins and minerals

Elder Care & Elder Rage – Know the Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

For eleven years I begged my stubborn elderly father to allow a carer to help him with my sick mother, but after 55 years of loving her, he adamantly insisted on taking care of her himself. Every agency and caregiver I hired to help her sighed in exasperation, “Jacqueline, we just can’t work with your father, his temper is unbearable. I don’t think you’ll be able to get him to accept help. until he himself is on his knees.”

My dad had always been 90% awesome, but damn it, that rabid temper was a doozy. He had never gotten mad at me before, but then again, I had never gone against his wishes either. When my mother nearly died from an infection caused by her inability to care for her, I immediately flew out to try and save her life, not knowing it would almost cost me my own.


I spent three months nursing my 82lb mum back to relative health while my dad said he loved me for a minute but got mad over something trivial , called me nasty names and threw me out of the house the next day. I was amazed to see him getting upset, even running the washing machine could cause dizziness, and there was no way to reason with him. It was so heartbreaking to see my once adored father turn against me.

The doctor evaluated my dad, but I was amazed that he could act so normal when he needed to! I couldn’t believe it when the doctor looked at me like I was crazy. She didn’t even take me seriously when I reported that my dad had nearly electrocuted my mom, but luckily I walked in three seconds before he plugged in a huge power strip that was dunked in a bath of water. – with my mother’s feet! Much later, I was furious to learn that my father had told his doctor (and everyone else) not to listen to anything I said because I was just a (beep beep) liar and all I wanted was his money! (I wish he had.)

Then things got serious. My dad never laid a hand on me in my entire life, but one day he almost choked me to death for adding HBO to his TV, even though he had eagerly agreed to it a few days before. Terrified, I dialed 911 and the police took him to the hospital for an evaluation. I was so shocked when they released him saying they couldn’t find anything wrong with him. What is even more amazing is that similar incidents happened three more times.


I was trapped. I couldn’t go home and leave my mother alone with my father – she would surely die from her inability to care for her. I couldn’t get the medical professionals to believe me – my dad was always so sane in front of them. I couldn’t get any medicine to calm him down and even when I finally did, he refused to take it, threw it in my face or flushed it down the toilet. I couldn’t get him to accept a caregiver and even when I did, no one would put up with it for very long. I couldn’t place my mother in a nursing home, he would take her out. I couldn’t place him in a home, he wasn’t eligible. They both refused assisted living – legally I couldn’t force them. I became a prisoner in my parents’ house for nearly a year, trying to resolve crisis after crisis, crying rivers daily and furious at an unsympathetic medical system that didn’t help me appropriately.


You don’t need a PhD to know something is wrong, but you do need the right doctor who can properly diagnose and treat dementia. Eventually I came across a neurologist specializing in dementia, and under threat of being placed in a nursing home, my father finally consented to go. The doctor performed a battery of blood, neurological, memory, and CT/PET scans. He reviewed my parents’ medications and ruled out reversible dementias such as B12 or thyroid deficiency. And then you should have seen my face crumble when he diagnosed stage 1 Alzheimer’s in both my parents, which all their other doctors completely missed.


What I was dealing with was the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (only one type of dementia), which starts intermittently and seems to come and go. I didn’t understand that my dad was addicted and trapped in his own lifelong bad behavior and his habit of yelling to get what he wanted manifested for illogical things…sometimes. I also didn’t understand that insane didn’t mean stupid (a disliked concept) and that he was still socially adapted to never show “Hyde” to anyone outside of the family. Even with the onset of dementia, it was amazing that he could still be so manipulative and cunning. On the other hand, my mother was sweet and lovely as she had always been.


I learned that Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-65% of all dementia and there is no stopping the progression or cure. However, if identified early, there are drugs that in most people can mask/slow down the symptoms of the disease, keeping a person in the early independence stage longer, delaying full-time supervision and nursing home care. (Ask a dementia specialist about: Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne and Namenda.)

After the neurologist treated dementia and depression (often associated with dementia) in both parents, he prescribed my dad a small dose of anti-aggressive medication which helped his temper without making him sleep all day. (I wish we had had this fifty years ago.) It wasn’t easy to get the right and not perfect dosages, but at least we had no more police intervention! Once my parents’ brain chemistry was better balanced, I was able to optimize nutrition, fluid intake, and all of their medications with much less resistance.


Also, I was finally able to implement techniques to deal with the odd behavior. Instead of logic and reason, I used distraction, redirection, and reminiscence. Instead of discussing the facts, I accepted, validated the feelings of frustration and lived in their realities. I learned to just “go with the flow” and let the nasty comments go. And if none of that worked, an ice cream bribe got my dad to take a shower, even though he swore blue streak he just took one yesterday ( more than a week ago)!

Then finally I managed to convince my father to accept a carer (he had only alienated 40 that year, most for about ten minutes), and with the benefit of adult day care five days a week for them and a support group for me, it all started to fall into place. It was so wonderful to hear my dad say once again, “We love you so much, honey.


What is so shocking is that no one ever discussed the possibility of dementia with me that first year. I was told that my parents’ “senior moments” and odd behaviors were just old age and a “normal part of aging.” Considering that one in eight at age 65, and nearly half at age 85, get Alzheimer’s disease, I should have been alerted. If I had just been shown the “Ten Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease” I would have realized what was happening and gotten the help they desperately needed from my parents. If any of this rings true for you or someone you love, I urge you to seek out a dementia specialist-immediately!

If I had just been shown the “Ten Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease”, I would have realized a year earlier what was happening to my parents and knew how to refer them to the right doctors to get the help they so desperately needed. If this rings true for you or someone you love, I urge you to get help from a dementia specialist right away.


(Reproduced with permission from the Alzheimer’s Association)

1. Memory loss

2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks

3. Language issues

4. Disorientation of time and place

5. Weak or Diminished Judgment

6. Problems with abstract thinking

7. Misplacing Things

8. Changes in mood or behavior

9. Personality Changes

10. Initiative Loss

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