Ask Miriam – March 2023
I am taking care of my dear grandmother. She is very forgetful and tends to leave the stove on or the water running, and I have to keep a close eye on her. I am pretty sure she has dementia, but she hasn’t seen a doctor since I moved in with her five years ago, so I don’t know for sure. I have noticed that she seems more withdrawn over the last six months. She used to love going to the store with me, and now she never wants to leave the house. And she always loved watching her shows on TV, but not anymore. It is a battle every morning when I try to get her to get dressed and to put in her hearing aids, which she takes out at every opportunity. She just doesn’t seem herself anymore. I don’t know what to do.
I’m so glad you reached out for support and information, even though your grandmother is not officially diagnosed. I see you mentioned that she is resistant to wearing her hearing aids, and it turns out that there is recent research about the connection between untreated hearing loss and increased dementia risk. In addition, not being able to hear well can seem like depression or may make a person more depressed.
Since it is hard to know what is causing her symptoms, the first step is to consult with a doctor. Check if she has a primary care physician assigned to her through her health care plan. Go ahead and make a list of your concerns and send it to the doctor. The doctor may be able to do a virtual visit or prefer your grandmother come into the office. While it sounds like your grandmother might not want to visit a doctor, you may be able to use a “therapeutic fib,” which gives a person who is confused a reason that makes sense to them and is not scary. For example, you can have the office staff call her to let her know she needs to come in to get her blood pressure taken, or you can tell her that Social Security requires everyone her age to have a check-up.
The doctor should be able to assess if your grandmother has Alzheimer’s or another dementia, depression, or possibly another disease or disorder. They will also likely want her to see a neurologist who can do further cognitive testing and an audiologist who specializes in hearing. The audiologist will test your grandmother’s hearing and may recommend a new or better hearing aid. There have been many advances in hearing aids over the past years.
Addressing the causes of her symptoms may take some time. Try to be patient with your grandmother and yourself. Know that while her forgetfulness and confusion may be frustrating, your grandmother is not doing it on purpose. For more information about dementia, depression, and hearing loss, please contact the Alzheimer’s Los Angeles Helpline at 844-435-7259 or visit our Caregiver Tips videos page.
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