Anybody know anything about geriatrics?

Putting a feeler out there because this is a most puzzling and vexing situation:

My grandmother is 86 or so and confined to a nursing home. She moved in a little over a year ago. She does not have Alzheimer’s Disease or any form of dementia, but she’s got diabetes and Parkinson’s and she can’t walk due to a broken hip. Grandpa is healthier but quite feeble himself and lives in the home with her.

Four days ago my grandmother, from no apparent cause, suddenly went stark raving mad. As in, throwing things at everyone and cussing them out, threatening to commit suicide, repeatedly trying to escape from her wheelchair and the nursing home itself (this in spite of the fact that she can’t even really stand up on her own), accusing everyone of hating her and conspiring against her, refusing to eat or take medicine, placed on a 24-hour watch for her own safety, etc. My mom thought perhaps grandma had a urinary tract infection, which can make old people go a bit funny in the head. But then yesterday, just as suddenly as it started, the madness stopped. Grandma has returned to her normal character and started eating again and taking her medicine etc. Clearly, it wasn’t a UTI, or it wouldn’t have gotten better like that. Same with her diabetes, that couldn’t have been the cause either.

Everyone — Mom, doctors, nursing home staff — seems to be at a loss about this and we are all concerned this might repeat itself. This is a matter of concern for me, besides for the obvious reasons, but because whenever Grandma has a crisis Mom goes insane too and starts taking out her stress on everyone else and making their lives miserable, especially my father’s and mine.

Anyone have any ideas about this? I figure — anything y’all suggest can’t hurt, might help, and if it does help it will make a lot of lives easier, not just my Grandma’s.

UPDATE: Case closed. It turned out Grandma did have a UTI after all. Why she suddenly regained her wits no one knows, but now she’s on antibiotics to clean out her plumbing.

6 thoughts on “Anybody know anything about geriatrics?

  1. Emily December 5, 2009 / 2:44 pm

    I’m no gerontologist, but maybe she was just reacting to the accumulated stress of multiple illnesses, the helplessness that comes with that, and having to move into a home instead of living in her own house? My grandmother didn’t have a distinct psychotic break but did become quite depressed and withdrawn when she became too ill to live alone and had to leave behind the home she loved. Maybe different people act out this frustration in different ways.

    Of course, I stress that I’m no expert myself and I have no idea. That was just my guess.

    • Meaghan December 5, 2009 / 2:49 pm

      I’ll bring that up with Mom — at least about the multiple illnesses. Grandma dreaded having to move into the nursing home, but once she actually arrived she admitted it wasn’t so bad and all the nasty things she feared would happen never came to pass. But I don’t think anyone would want to live in a home if they had a choice.

  2. Kelly December 6, 2009 / 5:40 am

    I’m so sorry to hear of this Meaghan. I’m sure it must be very difficult for you and your family to see this. Glad to hear she received a proper diagnosis and hopefullly she can live our her days in peace. Ridiculous calling them the “golden years”; not a whole lot of golden in becoming sick and infirm!

    • Meaghan December 6, 2009 / 4:54 pm

      It is an unfortunate side affect of modern medicine that old age and death seem to be unnecessarily prolonged. I have often wished my grandmother would die quickly instead of crumbling to pieces bit by bit like she has been. She’s terrified of dying. But she’s sick and suffering and in pain, and is only going to keep getting worse. It’s a miserable situation for all involved.

      Back in September they said she was terminal and had at most a few weeks. I was skeptical, because she’s pulled through so many crises before — I would always say, “Grandma is dying again.” Well, it’s been three months since then and she’s not showing any signs of shuffling off this mortal coil anytime soon, so they’ve taken her off hospice and admitted their error.

  3. Michelle December 7, 2009 / 5:16 pm

    Crazy that you bring this up my grandmother is 70 years old in 2 weeks has had Parkinson for 17 years and last Wednesday she started acting crazy, we took her to the hospital she started throwing things flashing people threatening us. She thought my mother and my uncle were trying to commit her. To find out she had a UTI. She is still in the hospital and has yet to completely recover she seems worse when she has no visitors. The sad thing is we all can not be up there all the time we do go as much as possible and if we can not get her to relax and stop freaking out they may not let her leave. Hearing that your grandmother has snapped back though gives me faith and I am happy to hear that she is doing better. I understand your feeling of not wanting her to be in pain and wither away. Parkinson’s is such a sad illness.

  4. C December 11, 2009 / 4:53 pm

    My mom is 86 and had a very similar situation. She’s been living in a nursing home for about 6 months. She went to the hospital for congestive heart failure. Day two at the hospital she started seeing things that were not there and having conversations with people. She would not eat, and didn’t sleep for over 48hours. I was at the hospital the whole time and it was so hard to see her in this way. When the Dr. said she could go back to the home I objected because of her erratic behavior, but he assured me she would be fine once she got back to the home. I was very skeptical and told him so. When the Transport arrived to take her back to the home, I apologized for her behavior, one of them asked me if she had had a UTI, I was puzzled as to why he would ask such a question, but she was being treated for one. When I told him he then explained how common it was for old folks to act this way when experiencing UTIs. I wish one of the hospital personnel could have told me that! Anyway, the moment she returned to her room at the Home she was back to herself, like a light switch had been flipped. So there ya go!

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