It’s hard to believe that medications don’t make a person more insane sometimes. If you can remember back to your oldest relatives who died natural and probably quite painful deaths, did it seem more common that they basically retained their personalities and their sense of basic reality, even if and when their memory and awareness was dwindling? That was my perception and experience.
My mother’s mom, Grandma Massey, was the first relative I witnessed dying on lots of drugs. She was uncharacteristically mean and delusional. I was eight and she told me she loathed me and would have spat on me if she had more energy. She wasn’t anyone I recognized.
This is pretty much what I’m going through with my mother right now. She’s definitely entered a new stage. I was fortunate to have a chunk of fun, sweet time with her, when she was basically intact and could hold up a meaningful conversation, at least for a few minutes.
Her Parkinson’s drugs were increased recently to help her walk and decrease the sense of terror people with this disease feel when the dopamine level has dropped down to near empty in the brain. It worked a miracle for her walking and her crying spells, but now she is barely mentally functional, living in a world of awful delusions and conspiracies, which lend themselves to a new kind of relentless fear for her. The other piece of this story is that when the Parkinson’s meds have to increase, other meds often do too, to address side effects. Then those secondary “helper” meds cause their own side effects. It’s a crazy balancing act, and though it sometimes works, it’s total hell when it doesn’t. This can also be the case with treating Lewy Body dementia, which is likely another part of my mom’s mental health challenges.
Tonight my mother called me four times to tell me there was a dead body on her floor. She could never locate it when the staff came in or when I was on the phone with her and was trying to talk her through it, but each time she hung up it returned. So this evening she went to bed believing she was sleeping next to a rotting human.
We obviously will be heading back to the doctor. I know that these issues aren’t all the fault of medications, as I’d like to think sometimes. Parkinson’s and dementia progressively tear a person and her world all apart, and there’s no way to avoid that reality. I just wonder if adding on the medication side-effects is making life much more miserable than it needs to be.
Mom keeps saying she’s done with the drugs, and has refused them a few times recently. Although that makes her much worse in the short-term, it’s tempting to think that long-term, she does have that right, and maybe she DOES know what’s best for her on some level. Maybe she’s pulling away from life, and perhaps that can be done more gently and lucidly off meds, even if it means she won’t be able to walk.
I have no idea what to do in that realm, but on a whole other topic, there’s been one thing this week that we can basically agree on: She’s decided that institutional dinners are overrated and that she would prefer just to eat ice cream from now on……