Dear Annie: How do you get help for a friend who appears to be drifting into dementia?
''Marjorie" and I have known each other for more than 20 years, and we have lunch every two weeks. When we first met, Marjorie was bright, energetic and involved in many activities. She is now in her mid-60s.
Two years ago, she suffered a couple of mini-strokes. At first, there were no obvious changes, but as time goes on, it has become more and more difficult to converse with her. She speaks in non sequiturs, has great difficulty finding the right word to express herself and often uses inappropriate phrases. She frequently misunderstands what I am saying and responds oddly. She now has considerable difficulty dealing with calculating the amount of her lunch check tip.
We have a friend whose wife has advanced dementia and is now confined to a care facility. He believes Marjorie is exhibiting the same symptoms. Marjorie seems completely unaware of how she has changed, and I am concerned that she needs help. It also alarms me that Marjorie is still driving and could injure herself or others. I am concerned that the workmen she hires to help around her house are taking advantage of her by charging excessive amounts for their services. If her funds are drained, she will have to substantially reduce her standard of living.
Annie, I am one of Marjorie's closest friends, and yet I'm reluctant to say anything to her about this. I don't want to hurt her. How do you tell someone she is losing her mind?
- Concerned Friend
Dear Concerned: You don't. You tell her you are worried about her and ask whether she's had a medical checkup recently. Marjorie's problem may not be dementia, but she won't know until she checks. (Sometimes, something as treatable as a urinary tract infection can mimic dementia.) If Marjorie has family, please notify them about her deteriorating mental state and suggest they accompany her to the doctor. You also can contact the Alzheimer's Association (alz.org) helpline at 1-800-272-3900.
Dear Annie: "Salem, Oregon" asked how to get her family to stop giving her Christmas gifts. For several years, I wanted that, too, but my family wouldn't agree.
Last year, I sent everyone an email telling them I would accept only handmade gifts or a notice of a gift to charity (monetary or that they volunteered). One planted a tree in my name, and I received a card from a charity when another helped with a special project. I plan to do the same thing this year.
- Feeling Great
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column.
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