For the past two days, during our visits to Mom we have found her to be increasingly confused. On Sunday, she asked where Dad (i.e. her father) was. And yesterday, she thought she had been trying to take a nap on a boat earlier in the day - and then wondered where we had parked her car in the parking garage (even though she had been in the nursing home all day).
When my father and I left after Sunday’s visit, he said, "She wasn’t very good today, was she?" My reply was no, she wasn’t; however, what I also noted was that this disorientation might be compounded by the cold front that came through during the previous 24 hours.
What I’ve learned when dealing with my Mom’s issues with Alzheimer’s is that some factors - especially major changes in the weather or even the lunar cycle - can prompt a reaction. For instance, a major cold front came through last winter. That morning I got a call from the nursing home that Mom wouldn’t wear her oxygen, and was adamantly telling the nursing staff that the morning news shows were telling viewers that wearing oxygen was hazardous to their health.
The following day Mom was back to a more normal pattern without the agitation (and the weather was beautiful outside). After watching this cycle continue to play out, I’ve gotten to the point when I can anticipate when bad weather may cause an emotional or mental reaction for Mom (and when I can expect a phone call asking me to try to calm her down).
I mentioned this perception to one of the nursing home staff members recently. She hadn’t noticed this pattern with other residents, but had noticed that a Full Moon causes residents with dementia to act out of character. After she mentioned this, I started watching. Sure enough, during the evening of the last Full Moon, Mom adamantly said that she wanted to wheel herself down the hallway as if she was in a race. My father was visiting her that night, and he couldn’t talk her out of her course (even if there was no reason why she needed to go down the hallway).
Environmental factors may play a role in the reaction of those with Alzheimer’s. In my mom’s case, I’ve noticed extreme weather conditions seem to cause her to become more disoriented. Changing lunar cycles (especially during the Full Moon) also seem to have an effect on her behavior. Being aware of these factors can help you anticipate how to help a loved one through these minor (but disconcerting) situations.
Dorian Martin writes about various topics for HealthCentral, including Alzheimer’s disease, diet/exercise, menopause and lung cancer. Dorian is a health and caregiving advocate living in College Station, TX. She has a Ph.D. in educational human resource development. Dorian also founded I Start Wondering, which encourages people to embrace a life-long learning approach to aging. She teaches Sheng Zhen Gong, a form of Qigong. Follow Dorian on Twitter at @dorianmartin, Facebook or Instagram at @doriannmartin.