Mary Ellen: A Dementia Nursing Story

“When we were growing up, our mom was a force of nature. She was fun, funny, talented, and everyone loved her. Our house was always rocking with us kids, our friends, neighbors, and people from the community. Now she has totally lost it. I mean she is dangerously crazy. She’s only 57 but won’t leave the house. When we go over there, to make sure she’s ok, bring food, or the grandkids, she won’t let us in. Today, she screamed & called my 8 year old a whore. She must be on drugs! I called my sister who came over and mom threatened to call the police. We wound up leaving a bunch of food on the porch. What can we do?”

Once a talented florist and ‘neighborhood’ mom’ Mary Ellen was an out-going woman who welcomed friends and neighbors to her home. She started to develop cognitive impairment while in her 50’s and began to employ compensatory mechanisms, like making lists, going only to familiar places and asking questions. Mary Ellen’s cognitive impairment worsened to the point where leaving herself notes and reminders became even more confusing. Unable to comprehend the environment, she refused to leave the house. Soon she responded to all her visitors as intruders, shouting obscenities to drive them away and in doing so, kept her environment simple and comprehensible.

As nurses, we know psychotic defense mechanisms are often seen in dementia patients. What is happening to Mary Ellen? Her family? What can be done?

Join us Wednesday February 21, 2018 on Oahu to share your thoughts and learn surprising solutions to this and other scenarios of dementia!