Undiagnosed dementia

Hi there,

My mother in law has been showing signs of dementia for several years now (I worked with dementia patients for two years so I’m familiar with many of the symptoms) but my partner and his family are not addressing the issue. Him and his sister have agreed that their mum is likely to have dementia but then keep regressing back to denial. I’ve tried to gently encourage them to seek help but they bury their heads in the sand. I’m in a difficult position as she’s not my mother so I don’t feel like it’s my place to get too involved.

It’s causing strain on my relationship with my partner as his mum wants to look after our 1 year old son but I refuse given the circumstances and he would allow her to just because it avoids confrontation. Whenever I try to broach the subject, it inevitably ends in an argument. A while ago my sister in law said she probably wouldn’t let her mum look after her child if she had one but is now denying she ever said this and is trying to pressure me into letting her mum babysit. There is a severe lack of communication within the family which doesn’t help the situation.

Has anyone else experienced this or similar? If so, I’d be grateful of any advice you can give me as I’m finding it increasingly hard to deal with. Thank you.

Just state your reasons why you don’t wish her to babysit and make it clear that you are not for turning.
Your child’s safety is paramount so don’t feel guilty.
Difficult but not as difficult as it could be if something happened.
Hopefully they may start addressing the issue.

My husband is in a nursing home because of strokes and vascular dementia. I say this, because before diagnosis, I and my family went into denial. Anything but dementia was almost a hope.
Wonder if you could gently coax your husband to consider your MIL having a memory test etc. Saying let’s hope it proves me wrong. If you prove to be correct, then at least every one will know.
In the meantime, of course your child is your main concern,! Once again, you could reverse the psychology, saying it’s for your MILs well being and safety, as she would be so upset if anything went wrong. I do understand this is so so difficult for you.
I may not be helpful with the suggestions, but hope they help

Hi Laura and welcome to the forum. I absolutely agree with you about not wanting MIL to babysit your son. The best solution here is for you to visit MIL frequently and to invite her over to yours when possible. That way you can keep a close watch on baby while MIL gets to see her grandson.
As for treating dementia I really don’t know if the medication available does anything to slow it down or treat the symptons. Others on this site have complained of the side effects the medication has on relatives. What do you think about the treatment for dementia?

How old is MIL?

It’s really difficult when someone is relatively young, my lovely sister in law died earlier this year at the age of 73, after several years in a secure nursing home.

I realised about 6 years ago that she was making exactly the same fluttery hand movements as her mum, who also died with dementia, my heart sank like a stone, as it was always SIL’s nightmare to end up like her Nana and later, her mum.

What is MIL’s financial position. Once there is a diagnosis she would be entitled to various benefits etc. Would that spur your OH to at least get her referred to a specialit?

My Mum is the early stages of Alzheimer’s and was showing symptoms for a while before she would get a test. It reached a crisis before she would agree. I stopped her looking after my children before she was diagnosed as I was worried. Which was hard as she really loved to have them. I work from home so have her over now to “look after them” whilst I am working. She obviously doesn’t really look after them as such, but she loves their company and they love hers. Often they just talk at her for several hours and they accept that she can’t really read to them or play board games etc and will ask them the same question over and over. It works really well.

I think the suggestion of perhaps getting a memory test to put your mind at rest is a good one. If “memory test” is too scary for everyone then you could just suggest a visit to the gp to talk about the symptoms she is showing. As part of the memory testing process they do urine and blood tests to rule out other causes, so not a lie that they will be exploring all causes of might be wrong with your MIL, not just dementia. You can also highlight to your husband the benefits of getting a diagnosis. My Mum is on medication to stablise her symptoms and she hasn’t declined in a whole year.

Good luck, it is really hard.

Thank you, it helps just knowing someone else’s experience. After writing this post I discovered my partner had suggested that my MIL be tested. Her reaction was quite explosive and said she just forgets things like everyone does. My partner now thinks he’s tried but she won’t go so that’s the end of that.

Thank you for your response. I don’t know enough about treatments yet to make an informed opinion. If the situation can be dealt with sooner rather than later, my MIL could make her own decisions about these matters. This is one of the points I keep putting across to my partner.

I’m sorry to hear about your sister, that’s such a young age. My MIL is 72 but if it is dementia that she has, it’s not that advanced as yet. I’m not sure about her financial situation but that’s a good suggestion to mention it to my partner. Thank you.

In that case, make sure that she arranges a Power of Attorney as soon as possible, and all the details of her insurance policies, bank accounts etc. are kept together in one place. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “she’s not that bad yet” but it can progress quickly. Unless you take precautions now, the future will be more difficult.

When she has been formally diagnosed, she will become exempt from Council Tax on the grounds of Severe Mental Impairment (easy to claim) and she will become entitled to Attendance Allowance as the symptoms progress. Find out the basic eligibility criteria asap, so that you know when to claim.

It is ultimately up to her children to support her, the more you do, the longer they will be in denial.