Dementia and Drugs

I haven’t talked about medication much in this blog, partly because I haven’t had much to say on the subject. I’m no medic or scientist, as my school grades will attest. I only managed to scrape through biology o-level thanks to Mum’s remarkable patience, testing me again and again as I revised, seemingly unable to grasp the simplest concept. I wanted to play cricket. She insisted on quizzing me on photosynthesis. As a postscript, I can tell you scored his first test century for England in the summer of 1980 but don’t ask me to explain the difference between aerobic and anaerobic respiration. I hardly knew then and I don’t know now.

But I digress. Recently Mum has become more anxious, sometimes distressed and often reluctant to have help with her personal care. I witnessed an early example when Mandy, Mum’s hairdresser, was trying to wash her hair. Watching Mum resist, crying for her mum, I felt completely empty inside. This shouldn’t be happening, but it was… and has again since. Mum has also started to rub her forehead, repeatedly. Distressing for those of us who love her but what might it feel like inside for Mum?

So, Mum’s GP has prescribed lorazepam, commonly used to tackle anxiety. She first took the drug a couple of days ago. I visited her yesterday and was shaken by what I found. Head down, eyes closed, Mum acknowledged my presence with little more than a grunt and try as I might, I could not encourage her to raise her head or open her eyes. Was this right? Is this how it’s going to be from now on?  I spoke to staff at the care home and rang Mum’s GP practice. Her GP wasn’t working but another doctor called me back. These symptoms, it seems, are quite common when a patient is first prescribed lorazepam. We’re monitoring how she responds over the next few days.

This is new territory. Until now, Mum hasn’t “needed” extra medication to control her behaviour. I feel completely out of my depth. Maybe, a smile, a laugh and a song, Dr. Duncan’s prescribed treatment, is no longer sufficient. Perhaps, like the dementia drug Mum started taking in 2009, it no longer does its job.

And yet, as I struggled for even the merest eye contact yesterday, a moment to treasure. As I always do, I told Mum that she’s still my Mum and that I love her. Normally, I get a smile and a sense that she knows what I am saying. Yesterday:

“I love you too dear.”

I can’t remember the last time she said that. Perhaps all is not lost.

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