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OH_Homeschooler

Help Me Figure This Out-Mother's Strange Texts

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This will be hard to keep short but I will try. My mom is 72. We were very close when I was growing up but things started getting a little strained when I got married. I felt like she was finding a lot of little things to criticize about me all of a sudden. Then I had kids and well, you know how grandmothers know best. 🙄 I really hate confrontation so I tried to bite my tongue on visits (we lived far apart by then). As the unsolicited advice was starting to drive me bonkers, I noticed her language skills taking a downturn. Forgetting the word she wants to say (one time she forgot "garlic" so she kept describing it as a spice that is kind of stinky...that sort of thing). And general memory issues. She was screened for Alzheimer's at one point but they found nothing of concern. So, no one in my family seemed bothered by these kinds of things but me. 

That's what I've been noticing for the last 20 years or so. Behavior changes and memory/language decline. So last year I had a very dramatic divorce and had to move with the kids. I was supposed to be able to come up with a down payment for the house but that fell through. My mom insisted that she lend me the money for the down payment. I did not approach her to ask for money, and I sincerely tried to turn down the offer. But ultimately I took it. She took some money out of her retirement account. She said that when I was able to pay her back, she would be happy if I returned about 75% of what she provided. But she kept insisting that there was no rush, so it sounded like repaying her was not a big deal to her. 

Well, I was finally able repay 75% of what she lent me. I honestly would have paid back the 100% if I could have. I sent her a check and she received it yesterday, and then I got a text from her. She wrote "I was wondering if you could spare another (approximately 5%). I hate to ask, if it is going to be a burden just let me, seriously don't stress about it. I had to take (more than double what she lent me) out of my IRA. The money for the house was not a problem. There were other things we had to take care of. Don't worry about it if you can't it is not a do or die situation." (That was verbatim-missing words and all). 

Fortunately I didn't see the text right away before she sent me another one an hour later. "[My stepdad] said that you should not worry about the money. I had no idea why I asked for the money. I am having a very manic-depressive day. You did not have anything to do with it." 

So then I wrote back saying I could repay the rest but it would take some time (money is very tight due to the divorce). Then she wrote, "Stepdad was upset that I even said anything. I did not need it for anything can we just forget about this matter."

So that was the end of that. I am so confused. I shared with my sister and she just kept saying how irritated she would be, and telling me to wait to respond until I'm not irritated. I'm NOT irritated, as I tried to tell her. I'm WORRIED. With so many years of declining memory and everything, I can't believe this is an isolated incident.  But like everything else, no one seems to think her mind is in decline, they think she's doing stuff like this on purpose.

My stepdad was an accountant, and did very well for himself. They go on vacations, they are generous with gifts. I have no reason to think they are having any kind of money problems. And the extra amount she requested really was a pittance compared to the total amount she took out of her IRA. And then all the backtracking in the same text, saying it's even not important. I can't explain enough how she never would want me to feel guilty about borrowing money from her, or feel bad for not paying her back the full amount. But that kind of seems like the only reason she would have asked for more money. My stepdad is also very generous and not the type to make her feel bad about lending money to any of her kids, as we all work hard and aren't deadbeats. It's just all so irrational. I don't know what to make of it. And her comment about manic-depression doesn't ring true to me. I mean yes she has been diagnosed with it, but that doesn't sound like typical bipolar behavior. 

So hive-what do you think might be going on, and how can I get my family to do more? It's hard because I'm not as close to her as they are (physically). I know she spends a lot of time at doctor's offices for many different things so it's hard to think they haven't noticed things off about her. I don't know, I guess I just need some outside perspectives on this. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 minute ago, Selkie said:

Have you asked your stepdad about it?

 

No, I'm not sure how I can get in touch with him without her finding out, and she is apparently very touchy about this now. If she knew I went behind her back to talk to him I feel like it would make things worse. They have a shared email account, phone, everything. 

 

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Does your mom suffer from anxiety? My dad has some financial anxiety due to a period of poverty in childhood and he would misinterpret financial stuff as much worse than it is. For example, if I mention that my family car need routine maintenance work done, my dad would mentally assumed something more serious like major repair work needed instead of merely oil change and tire rotation. I could see my 77 year old dad saying that their monthly budget is tight in panic mode and then realizing that it’s not. 
I agree with asking your stepdad about memory lapses in general.

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Not knowing more, I wonder if she was trying to get some money that your stepdad wouldn't know about - maybe she wants to buy something he doesn't agree with or maybe she has bills he doesn't know about.

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3 minutes ago, Arcadia said:

Does your mom suffer from anxiety? My dad has some financial anxiety due to a period of poverty in childhood and he would misinterpret financial stuff as much worse than it is. For example, if I mention that my family car need routine maintenance work done, my dad would mentally assumed something more serious like major repair work needed instead of merely oil change and tire rotation. I could see my 77 year old dad saying that their monthly budget is tight in panic mode and then realizing that it’s not. 
I agree with asking your stepdad about memory lapses in general.

 

Yes, she does have anxiety. That does make some sense that she would forget that everything is fine financially and panic. And it's funny you mention the car thing. My car is designed to shut down at stop lights to save on fuel, and when I explained that to my mom, she got all worried like there was something wrong with the car. 

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8 minutes ago, SKL said:

Not knowing more, I wonder if she was trying to get some money that your stepdad wouldn't know about - maybe she wants to buy something he doesn't agree with or maybe she has bills he doesn't know about.

 

Yes, I suppose that's possible but I really hate to think that's the issue. She doesn't get out of the house much, and he's the one who brings in all the Amazon packages she orders so she can't keep too many secrets. 😆 But who knows at this point? I considered that she's doing some kind of online gambling or something, but it's just so hard to picture. I've been wrong about people before though (hence, the divorce). 

There are a lot of family birthdays this time of year, and last year we all got together for a group celebration. Maybe I should propose that again just so I can have some one-on-one conversations.

 

Edited by OH_Homeschooler

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My parents are 70 and this conversation is something that could easily happen with my mom. She is an anxious person and worries a lot. Sometimes that worry comes out in very odd ways. 

They lent us money for a down payment on our house last year. My dad was very laid back about it. His idea was that it could be an advance on our inheritance, prepayment of rent(they moved in with us,) or we could work off the money by helping them get their house ready to sell. All legitimate ideas and make sense.  He would NEVER feel comfortable asking us to actually pay the money back with actual cash. It just isn't his personality and he feels very strongly about not taking money from his kids.

My mom likes the ways we were planning on repaying them and is happy with the arrangement. But she also has anxiety that I'm sure reminds her periodically that they are missing money that could be going towards somewhere else, even though lending the money didn't hurt their finances at all.

There are times she has made very odd requests and then after talking to my dad about it changes her request because if his feelings about it 

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Re: language skills taking a downturn

If you figure out what this is, let me know. I developed this in the last year & it really alarms me. I explained it to my doctor & it got blown off as a perimenopause thing. It seriously bugs the heck out of me to not be able to use the right word.

Re:  other behavior being off

I am usually the only one who notices this. I saw it in my dad & no one did anything. I'm noticing things with my mom & I don't even want to keep mentioning things because I keep getting told it is nothing.

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If she texted or emailed, some of the wording could be autocorrect.  I can’t  even type a sentence without autocorrect changing something, sometimes I catch it, but other times, autocorrect says what it wants.

As far as the money, sounds like she was typing her stream of thought at the moment, and is truly content with what you paid back.  I’d take her at her word and not repay anymore.

 

Edited by school17777
Stupid autocorrect!
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2 hours ago, RootAnn said:

Re: language skills taking a downturn

If you figure out what this is, let me know. I developed this in the last year & it really alarms me. I explained it to my doctor & it got blown off as a perimenopause thing. It seriously bugs the heck out of me to not be able to use the right word.

Re:  other behavior being off

I am usually the only one who notices this. I saw it in my dad & no one did anything. I'm noticing things with my mom & I don't even want to keep mentioning things because I keep getting told it is nothing.

I call it exhaustion induced delayed nominal recall. It only happens when I'm tired and only with nouns. If this is your experience I cannot explain it but rest assured that after explaining it to other people it is a very common problem. I am 34 and I don't believe I'm perimenopausal.

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19 minutes ago, Slache said:

I call it exhaustion induced delayed nominal recall. It only happens when I'm tired and only with nouns. If this is your experience I cannot explain it but rest assured that after explaining it to other people it is a very common problem. I am 34 and I don't believe I'm perimenopausal.

I wish this was the case with me but it happens at odd times, with nouns, adjectives, verbs, and possibly prepositions. And I ever used to do it. The thesaurus is my friend when I'm writing but in conversations with family & friends, it is causing troubled glances & raised eyebrows, respectively. 

OP:  I wonder if the strain when you grew up & married was partially because she couldn't control everything anymore? And her worry & anxiety caused her to criticize you instead of supporting & uplifting you. I can understand that reaction.

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As far as forgetting words, my dad has been doing that my whole life, and I have been increasingly doing it.  Incidentally it did get worse for me in perimenopause.  I hope it's temporary!  But if not, then I know it's genetic in my case.  My dad is dyslexic, and I have a milder case, so I wonder if that is part of it.  Not sure if there are conditions from day to day that make it worse or better.

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3 hours ago, RootAnn said:

Re: language skills taking a downturn

If you figure out what this is, let me know. I developed this in the last year & it really alarms me. I explained it to my doctor & it got blown off as a perimenopause thing. It seriously bugs the heck out of me to not be able to use the right word.

Re:  other behavior being off

I am usually the only one who notices this. I saw it in my dad & no one did anything. I'm noticing things with my mom & I don't even want to keep mentioning things because I keep getting told it is nothing.

I have the same word thing going on about two years or so now, and it is really bothering me. I’ve been chalking it up to hopefully being due to poor sleep (I have a two year old who has been a terrible sleeper, but she does finally sleep now, but I’m still doing it (but I wake a lot all night)). 
 

I also could have written most of the original post. I’ve been noticing concerning memory lapses in my mom for several years now, but everyone else in my family brushes it off. Besides being in her 70s, she is on medications that can increase the risk of dementia. Is your mom on any benzodiazepines or antidepressants  by chance? Do you know her doctor? You can always call and leave a message about your concern in hopes he/she will do additional screening next time. They can’t tell you anything, but that doesn’t mean they can’t listen to what you have to share.

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I think the explanations others have given about the texts (anxiety, etc.) make sense.

On the subject of dementia:

Three times I have walked this path with close family members. All three took years to play out. In all three cases, I noticed changes such as you describe but most of the family did not recognize those concerns. Dementia moments were rationalized away for years. I think that is normal for people close to someone who is falling into dementia. It takes years for dementia to really blossom--people become acclimated to the new normal with each incremental change, and also folks don't want to face that something horrible is happening. 

I am also currently walking the dementia path, yet again, with a fourth close family member. In all four cases, doctors assessed multiple times and said all was fine--FOR YEARS--while those closest to the dementia victim absolutely know that it is not fine. It is so frustrating! I don't put much stock in the ability of doctors to figure this out until the dementia is quite advanced. 

I think you should have your mother assessed by a neurologist. When you do so, you need to have an organized, long list of specific examples as well as a timeline of how this has been happening. You need to talk to the doctor alone. 

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Unfortunately, I have too much experience with Alzheimer's. I do think it is possible that you have been noticing things that no one else in your family feels in concerning. That does happen. I was finally able to get my own mother to go to a gerontologist, who gave her the diagnosis.

That was still early enough in the disease progression that most people didn't notice in casual encounters -- and even some medical professionals wondered if it was correct -- even though she had had enough trouble at her job (school nurse) that the principal required her to either take an early retirement or lose her position. She could not explain to my father why she was forced to retire, so he called the school himself to get an explanation, and that whole incident was what gave me the opening to bring up with Mom the need for testing.

Even though I recognized the dementia the first time I noticed a symptom (at least a year before I convinced her to go to the specialist), and even though my grandmother with Alzheimer's had lived with us for almost a decade when we were younger, so that people should have been aware of what some of the symptoms might mean, there were some weird denial responses in my family. My sister thought Mom probably had attention and ADHD issues (suddenly, at age 60?) and just needed to take yoga. My dad accepted the diagnosis but didn't know how to recognized the supports that Mom needed, so that eventually I took her into my home. And Mom herself never once discussed her diagnosis with anyone. She couldn't cope with it, I think, having cared for her own mother with dementia.

So relatives can have denial and can fail to recognize things, and the person in question often does not see the changes in themselves that others see. It can be tricky to manage, and it's worth getting a medical exam for your mother, if she is willing to have you involved.

With all that said, the text that you describe does not sound like an indication of dementia to me. It does sound like she may have had some anxiety or concern about the finances, and that she backpedaled once her husband told her that he didn't really want the money back from you and that their finances are stable. The ways that people think about money in a marriage really can differ. She may have anxiety and worry about her financial future, even without having dementia.

Losing language can be a sign of dementia, but it can also be due to other things. I forget words when I am sleep deprived, for example. The next time you see your parents in person, try to create an opportunity to talk to your stepfather alone (I know that this can be tricky). Bring up your concerns and let him know that you are open to discussing medical things with him, so that he doesn't have to deal with things alone. Ask him how you can check in with him periodically without your mother overhearing; perhaps he can call you every once in awhile when she is out of the house. Ask him if he has a private email account or cell phone number; he very well might, and you might not know.

I'm sorry about your concerns. Sometimes dementia progresses very slowly over a long period of time, so that it is not evident to those who see the person daily. You can remind your stepfather that your mom didn't used to be this way. He may appreciate your support, or he may say it's not needed. You can also consider what your role might be in the future, if dementia ends up being part of the picture. Since you live far away, it can be hard to know how to help.

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Without knowing anything else of course, nothing you wrote causes me great concern.  If she has had anxiety and depression for years, I think that alone could cause someone to have memory lapses from time to time.  There's such a thing as mental resource, and if her brain is putting all its energy into fighting depression, fighting anxiety, or who knows what all, then little memory lapses wouldn't surprise me.  Kind of like, if you have only 3 things going on at home at once, you'll probably remember to take the clothes out of the dryer.  If you have 20 things going on at once, you might not remember till that evening.  I guess I'd only be concerned if it's progressively getting worse, or if her anxiety/depression is getting worse.  It could also be a reaction to medication or lack of sleep.

Out of curiosity, how long have she and your step-dad been married?  Also, has your mother ever had a brain MRI?  

About the text conversation, etc...  I'd just assume that she thought she really needed it for something, in the moment, and panicked.  Then after discussing with her dh, she changed her mind.  It sounds like she felt really badly about having even asked you, so she went out of the way to apologize.  (I don't think that's too unusual.)

And about the word gaps, etc., in the text.  I'd think nothing of that.  You should have seen some of my mother's texts!  They became more and more hilarious.  Not because her mind was going, but because she cared less about putting time into proofreading it.  She'd talk into Siri and whatever Siri came up with was fine with her.  😄 

It sounds like you're quite worried though, so I'd encourage you to find a day or evening that you can visit her and take her out to lunch or something.  (Not sure how far you live from her...)  

Another thought ~ how is her diet?  Is she getting the nutrients she needs?

 

Edited by J-rap
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My experience is that when the person lacks control over their own life or their mind they try to get control over the adult child using the criticism, unsolicited advice, power of money etc. They convince themselves that others are 'worse off', so therefore they are 'good'.  

  Hard to tell what's going on with your mom's finances....you can do nothing about it, so don't worry about it other than a plan to repay.  I"d personally just put a small amount aside each month and at some point return it.  Maybe that's a decade away and they may need it then.

 The nutrition, the meds, and the genetics affect her language ability and anxiety.  I've had the nutrition effect on memory/language issue all my life; it wasn't until 23andme came out that anyone had any idea of cause.  For me it was the ability to process folic acid (don't have it) so I have to avoid folic acid enriched food (U.S. enriches grains) and take a methylB12 supplement daily. Someone your mom's age could also have a UTI. THe right doctor could help her, but to start with you could ask her spouse if her bloodwork is current.  Unfortunately B12 levels won't be flagged if they are in the 'survive' rather than 'thrive' level, and it does make a difference for many people.  Same for blood sugar, you can be under the line for pre-diabetic and still have issues. And with the meds and with the patient's food preferences, they may not be able to optimize health.

Edited by HeighHo
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I would not be concerned with missing words or poor phrasing in texts, that''s just how texts go.  

I also think the money panic can be written off to anxiety.  My mom does this sometimes, and my stepdad also cools her down.  She went through a very hard time as an adult single mom where there wasn't enough, whereas my stepdad left poverty behind him at adulthood.  

For dementia symptoms... I guess I would ask:  what is it you want your family to do?  My understanding is that there isn't a whole lot family can do for dementia.  Maybe you are uncomfortable being the only canary in the coal mine, so to speak, I'm sure that is a very scary and isolating place to be, when no one can see the signs you are seeing.  But concretely, I'm not sure how important it is.  I'd be happy to be corrected, if there are now treatments for some of the dementia diseases.  

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I think you buried the lead. She is 72 with diagnosed bipolar. I do think bipolar, The meds to treat it, and her age, explain a lot. 
 

 

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10 hours ago, kand said:

I also could have written most of the original post. I’ve been noticing concerning memory lapses in my mom for several years now, but everyone else in my family brushes it off. Besides being in her 70s, she is on medications that can increase the risk of dementia. Is your mom on any benzodiazepines or antidepressants  by chance? Do you know her doctor? You can always call and leave a message about your concern in hopes he/she will do additional screening next time. They can’t tell you anything, but that doesn’t mean they can’t listen to what you have to share.

Yes, she is on a lot of different medications. I know at one point she had to bring them all in to her doctor and pare them down because there were so many, and many different interactions. Perhaps it is time to do that again. I do not know her current doctor(s) but that is something I can bring up with my stepdad. Thanks!

1 hour ago, Monica_in_Switzerland said:

For dementia symptoms... I guess I would ask:  what is it you want your family to do?  My understanding is that there isn't a whole lot family can do for dementia.  Maybe you are uncomfortable being the only canary in the coal mine, so to speak, I'm sure that is a very scary and isolating place to be, when no one can see the signs you are seeing.  But concretely, I'm not sure how important it is.  I'd be happy to be corrected, if there are now treatments for some of the dementia diseases.  

 This is a very good point. I know there is not much that can be done to stop the progress of dementia. It could be that I want to believe that she doesn't mean to hurt my feelings when she criticizes me. I know I can just tell myself it IS something like dementia that is causing it, just put a label on and not take it personally. It wouldn't hurt for me to try to start doing that. 

9 hours ago, Harriet Vane said:

Three times I have walked this path with close family members. All three took years to play out. In all three cases, I noticed changes such as you describe but most of the family did not recognize those concerns. Dementia moments were rationalized away for years. I think that is normal for people close to someone who is falling into dementia. It takes years for dementia to really blossom--people become acclimated to the new normal with each incremental change, and also folks don't want to face that something horrible is happening. 

I'm sorry you've become so familiar with dementia. I have thought very often that it's the case that I don't see her very often, so each time I do see her, I perceive a big change. 

 

Thank you everyone for your insights. I was so focused on the latest text, so I forgot some other important things. She has had diagnosed TIAs, so those could definitely be adding to her memory and language issues. It could be that she's had more of those that have gone unnoticed. 

For those who mentioned forgetting a word here and there, I think that is to be expected and not too concerning. When I talk about her forgetting a word, I'm talking multiple times in a single conversation, coupled with painfully long pauses. Not isolated incidents.There are also strange word substitutions. One time instead of saying we should go out for breakfast at Panera Bread, she said Panda Bear.

And she calls me by my older sister's name. I know this is normal, I do it to my own kids. But I recognize that I'm doing it and I correct myself. She used to correct herself. Now she just calls me her name and doesn't seem to notice at all. 

Anyway, thanks everyone for being a sounding board. I will consider all of your suggestions and think of the best way to bring up some points in a way that doesn't ruffle feathers. 

 

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4 minutes ago, OH_Homeschooler said:

Yes, she is on a lot of different medications. I know at one point she had to bring them all in to her doctor and pare them down because there were so many, and many different interactions. Perhaps it is time to do that again. I do not know her current doctor(s) but that is something I can bring up with my stepdad. Thanks!

 This is a very good point. I know there is not much that can be done to stop the progress of dementia. It could be that I want to believe that she doesn't mean to hurt my feelings when she criticizes me. I know I can just tell myself it IS something like dementia that is causing it, just put a label on and not take it personally. It wouldn't hurt for me to try to start doing that. 

I'm sorry you've become so familiar with dementia. I have thought very often that it's the case that I don't see her very often, so each time I do see her, I perceive a big change. 

 

Thank you everyone for your insights. I was so focused on the latest text, so I forgot some other important things. She has had diagnosed TIAs, so those could definitely be adding to her memory and language issues. It could be that she's had more of those that have gone unnoticed. 

For those who mentioned forgetting a word here and there, I think that is to be expected and not too concerning. When I talk about her forgetting a word, I'm talking multiple times in a single conversation, coupled with painfully long pauses. Not isolated incidents.There are also strange word substitutions. One time instead of saying we should go out for breakfast at Panera Bread, she said Panda Bear.

And she calls me by my older sister's name. I know this is normal, I do it to my own kids. But I recognize that I'm doing it and I correct myself. She used to correct herself. Now she just calls me her name and doesn't seem to notice at all. 

Anyway, thanks everyone for being a sounding board. I will consider all of your suggestions and think of the best way to bring up some points in a way that doesn't ruffle feathers. 

 

This could certainly explain it.   And perhaps she's had other TIA's as well.  This is what happened to my mother eventually -- small TIA's that eventually showed itself in declining cognitive skills.  Very, very slight at first.  The first TIA she had was simply a nap overslept and a little confusion upon waking.  She was 88 so didn't seem too unusual.  They can be so easy to miss.

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Is she bipolar?  She mentioned having a very manic-depressive day.  I have learned that depression in elderly can also manifest as memory issues.

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