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Does my dad have dementia?

 
Question: Does my dad have dementia? He has been to doctors but hasn’t been diagnosed yet because he has refused to have an MRI and will not see a psychiatrist. My father has been taking a large amount of vitamins daily for years. I have talked to my dad about the excessive amount of vitamins and how dangerous that could be for his body but he has become very stubborn. The doctor prescribed Zoloft but he only takes half the dose. My father is now accusing my mother of cheating and he will not let her out of his sight (he is blind, by the way). My poor mom loves shopping and spending time with my aunts but can’t. The reason I think it is dementia (or hopefully just a side effect from vitamins) is because the man I described is NOT my father. He has been a great dad and husband to my mother, he worked hard in his life to support my mom and four children. I guess I need to know what we should do. He can still function, he remembers things. It’s the change of personality and aggressiveness that scares us.
Dr. Amy: It’s very upsetting to see a loved one start to act in ways that are strange and unrecognizable, especially when they have always been wonderful and supportive. I’m sure you just want your dad back!
Your dad’s change in personality could have a number of causes, so it’s important that he have a thorough assessment. Both depression and dementia can cause personality changes, for example. It sounds like the challenge lies in getting him to have an assessment. I encourage you to talk with your father’s doctor and see if he or she can get your dad to undergo the evaluation. If it is dementia, his brain is not working the way it used to, so you really are dealing with a different person, in a way. 
He needs an assessment and you need guidance. I suggest you look into a support group in your area. At the same time, Home Instead Senior Care has put together some great resources on the Caregiver Stress site and Help for Alzheimer’s Families. And David Troxel’s books are very helpful and give great, practical advice.
Together with the doctor, the goal is to see if you can get your dad to cooperate voluntarily. He may be quite frightened by what’s going on. He needs to know that you are on his team. Reassure him about your motivation and your goals. At the same time, he also needs to know that it’s not OK for things to remain as they are. It is not fair to anyone.
Don’t give up. Just as you would not let a sick child dictate to you, you need to think about ways to deal with someone who may no longer be able to reason things out himself. Having long discussion probably will not work. You will likely get further working with his doctor and people in your support groups. Good luck!

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