What Can You Do When You Suspect A Friend has Dementia?

I was visiting with a friend last evening.  The weather was lovely and we were enjoying an evening of conversation on the patio: firming up the menus for 2 week-end barbecues and discussing how to entertain some visitors from Australia that I would be receiving the next week.  So it was quite a long evening.

Over the course of the evening, I began to notice that she was repeating stories.  I’ve noticed this to a certain extent in the past but not to the degree that it was occurring last evening. 

Of course, coming from a background of caring for a father with dementia and having been involved with the Alzheimer’s Association, the possibility of dementia in ANYONE is always at the forefront of my mind.  I even suspect myself of having it from time to time.

But this was different.  One of the things that she reiterated (not less than ten times) was how she makes her smoked ghouda omelettes.  I can now cite the directions verbatim!  From choosing only bacon that comes from “Tim’s Market” to “carmelizing the heck out of the onions, mushrooms, and chopped bacon”,  I’m pretty sure that I can do her recipe justice.

Of course, that’s not the point.  The repetition of that story (and 2 or 3 others) and the frequency of the repetition was distressing.  Knowing her medical background also makes it disturbing.  There was a situation about 2 years ago where she suffered heart failure and coded at home.  She remembers the EMS (Emergency medical system) personnel saying “We’re losing her!”   In the hospital, she suffered renal failure and was also diagnosed with Diabetes Type II.

This is the perfect set up for vascular dementia. 

I believe that one of the reasons she repeated her stories more often than usual last night is because she has had some bad news about a very close relative.  Also I am not around her enough to know if her bills are being paid on-time, if she has misplaced items frequently, or if she has gotten lost while driving.  But I still believe that this was a big enough warning sign to cause me to wonder what to do next.

Her family doesn’t live close by and in fact are not even in the same state so it’s not likely that they’ll be able to notice these small changes.

Even when speaking to a relative about the possibility of dementia, there is always fear of embarassing, hurting or alienating them.  It is awkward under the best of situations and with a friend I think that fear is even more profound. 

I think for now that I will just watch her a little more closely and if the subject of dementia comes up, I’ll nonchalently mention an instance relating to something I saw and ask her opinion about it. 

What would YOU do?

NOte from Shelley:  If you’re worried that YOU might have dementia, here is the link to a self administered “Gerocognitive Examination” provided by The Ohio State University: http://www.sagetest.osu.edu/Sage-Form1.pdf


Post By Shelley Webb (365 Posts)

Shelley Webb is a Registered Nurse and founder of The Intentional Caregiver. She was blessed to have cared for her father in her home for more than 4 years.

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  1. I had a similar experience, I was dating a man who I knew years ago, he was brilliant but we broke up due to his drug use. 30 years later we rekindled and he was darling but he told the story of traumatic events with his ex-wife over and over, some time 4 reviews in an evening. When I suggested he seek help, couched in the idea of the trauma, he became visibly upset.
    His ex and children say horrible things to him about hating him for being angry all the time. But he does do crazy things, announces he is going to work putts around for a minute then picks up the News paper and sits down to read.
    I was visiting him on a vacation watching this at the time and it was startling enough I came home early. Time has passed and he has shown that he will have a sudden burst of temper, he writes mean spirited emails, accusing me of things and I am 1300 miles away! or says he never wants to hear from me again and doesn’t remember it the next day. So I stopped having a relationship with him, I explained in painful details why, and he continues to write periodically bazaar texts. Often he will be watching a TV show and text me out of the blue to tell me what he is watching, after a month of no contact.
    I worry he isn’t safe but his angry behavior has run everyone away.
    Does this sound like dementia? He is barely 60, I sometimes fear I over reacted then I reread an old email and get over that idea.

  2. Long-term drug use has been known to cause dementia. I’m unable to diagnose that – it would take a physician to be able to make any type of actual diagnosis but I CAN say that he is exhibiting some of the symptoms. He may not recall that he told you of the events of his ex-wife or even that he is mad at you. If he has dementia, he may often be living only in the very present moment.

    I wouldn’t bother spending a lot of time explaining WHY you are choosing to keep your distance (because he probably won’t remember), but DO keep your distance. You are right to be concerned. Perhaps his ex and children need to made aware of a possible medical condition for his outbursts (which can be a sign of Alzheimer’s Disease or other dementias). 60 is not too young for dementia to begin its appearance and dementia shows itself in many different ways.

    Best wishes to you, Nancy.

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