Wednesday, 3 February 2016

The medication monkey

When I was young, adults used to say the stupidest things. My favourite? “You’ve got a monkey on your back, young lady.”

Small children would glance nervously behind them, older ones would deny it, getting crosser and less cooperative by the minute. Ridiculous.

I’ve been struggling, these past couple of weeks, with Mum. And after all these years, monkeys have come to mind. She’s been constantly exhausted, grumpy and verbally aggressive. Then there’s the relentless negativity - describing everything and everyone as ‘boring’.

I’ve been doing my very best. Trying to separate the illness - Alzheimers’ - from the person. But it’s hard not taking the slights and the sullenness personally. And I’ve been wondering what it’s all about. Maybe this is what I’ve been dreading - a sudden, rapid deterioration in Mum’s condition.

On Friday afternoon, I pop round to the rest home and Bev the nurse takes me aside. She’s worried about Mum. So are the care staff. Every day, for more than a week now, it’s been almost impossible to get Mum going. She refuses breakfast and lies in bed all morning, declining numerous offers of help. At lunchtime she drags herself out of bed then retreats to her room as soon as it’s over. Straight back to the horizontal.

Bev and I agree that, of themselves, these behaviours aren’t unusual. As Alzheimers’ has progressed, my mother’s mood, energy and initiative have been increasingly affected. Mum has good and bad times - sometimes for an hour or so, sometimes for a whole day. But an ongoing pattern of passivity, negativity and hostile outbursts? That’s new.

Bev has a couple of theories. Maybe Mum’s medication regime is knocking her out. The anti psychotic and the sleeping pills no longer working for her. Or maybe it's what we both fear - a significant step in the process of cognitive change.

“I’ll talk to the doctor,” says Bev. “Suggest that he cuts back the sleeping meds and reviews the rest.”

Bev phones the following afternoon. The doctor has taken Mum off almost all her medication. As of last night.

Next day, Mum’s a different person. Up and dressed before the staff have knocked on the door offering to shower her. Greeting me happily when I breeze in after lunch. I find Mum perched on her bed, reading a magazine, dressed and ready for a trip out.

Her room looks different too.
“I had a bit of a sort out,” says Mum. Peggy squares and books are in neat piles and the photos and ornaments dusted and rearranged.


Mum and I spend a sunny afternoon exploring Ascot Street - one of the oldest roads in Wellington. Possibly the steepest as well. We peer over picket fences, admiring late blooming roses and japonica trees festooned with pear-like fruit. We rest on the seat where the road narrows from a tiny one-way street to an even smaller brick-edged path. We wander into shops, poring over fancy second hand shoes and handbags. “Consignment Boutique,” says Mum, reading the sign in the window. “Whatever next!”

Mum’s short term memory’s as bad as ever. It may even be worse.
“Where are you from?” asks the chatty shop assistant. “Wellington,” says Mum. “I’ve lived in Wellington my entire life.” Fifty two years of rural living temporarily wiped from my mother’s memory. But she’s happy and mentally energetic, if a little puffed.

Searching for a tea shop we arrive at a cosy pub, where we plonk ourselves down in the courtyard. We order tea and sit, soaking up the late afternoon sun.

“I’ve had such a lovely afternoon,” says Mum. “Not just lovely but interesting too. I’ve spent years walking round Thorndon. But I’ve never been up that street.”

For now, the monkey’s gone.


  1. Lovely story. You do such a great job caring for her.

  2. As we age I enjoy seeing glimpes of my possible life.My mother is 98 and our days together are growing fewer. I remind myself that in 20 years I will be my mother.
    Be kind, be gentle and enjoy whatever is offered.
    Your writings are an inspiration to those of us with aging family and friends.


  3. I suffered from this horrible syndrome (ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE)...and it was horrible...for the past 3 years this has taken over pretty much all of my walking moments along with other medical issues. My family/friends have been with me through it all. But Today I am pain free!! I can't even believe how this all happened...I am just as amazed as, my family/friends are...none of us can believe how long I suffered and now in literally a matter of months I am completely pain free.
    How? Well let me tell you.....Months ago my Friend told me about something called ZOMO HERBS....I heard him, but I didn't listen.....I went on just suffering along, Then My friend Raval, talked to my wife about it one night, when I was at my lowest point.....just wanting to give up...this wasn't the way I wanted to live...always in constant pain..Raval said, I will send you ZOMO HERBS..... I started using it and the rest is history my friends, There was a light at the end of the Tunnel... The results were immediate, it did take my pain away, but not was not until I upped the dosage to 3 times daily that I saw complete results.....NO PAIN.....I became so thrilled over the results that I decide to share my testimony.....If I can help even one person and that person helps one person and so on...we can all be out of pain and regaining our lives back....sound good? I have my life back!!!! I want you to have yours back too! Simply try to reach the doctor on ( for more information about his treatment process or how to get his medicine.

  4. In my own case it was just over four years ago when my Mum began to sound different on the phone. She lived back East with my siblings and my husband and I were living on the West coast and in phone calls it became apparent that my Mum's voice no longer had the same tones of excitement and humor that she used to; and instead it was very flat. At the same time she began to tell us about a situation at work that just didn't seem possible; she was complaining that a group of fellow workers were conspiring to get her. Although Mum had much academic success as a teenager, her behavior had become increasingly odd during the past years. She quit seeing her friends and no longer seemed to care about her appearance or social pursuits. She began wearing the same clothes each day and seldom bathed. She lived with several family members but rarely spoke to any of us. Obviously this whole story seemed very unbelievable and we sensed something was wrong but had no clue as to what it could be. We recommended that my Mum quit her job and look for something else - as we began to wonder if she had a "mental breakdown" and would get better once out of the stressful job situation.
    In the case of Mum, she was having persecurtory delusions, auditory hallucinations and negative symptoms that had lasted for at least Three years. All of these symptoms fit with a diagnosis of Dementia. Her story reflects a common case, in which a high-functioning young adult goes through a major decline in day-to-day skills. Although family and friends may feel this is a loss of the person they knew, the illness can be treated and a good outcome is possible as it all got better when we started using a herbal medicine for her through Aparajita.
    My recommendation to people who are either wondering if they have Dementia or wondering if a friend or loved one has Dementia should contact I think one of our key problems was that we didn't do this in the early days of my Mum's illness as we never thought of a natural alternative for her.

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