It’s Not Always Dementia

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Jim Home from Hospital & Anniv
Jim & Vicki’s 25th Anniversary Was The Day Jim Was Released From Hospital

Until May 2014, Jim’s dementia had manifested itself as a gradual decline in cognitive and physical abilities. Then without warning there was a significant deterioration in Jim’s level of capabilities and a simultaneous major increase in Jim’s level of agitation. It was all we could do to get Jim through the day without a major incident that was emotionally and physically difficult for him and others. Jim was unhappy, frustrated, and mad about pretty much everything.

I assumed what was happening to him was the normal progression of his dementia.


I felt totally helpless. I had no idea what to do to for Jim. I assumed what was happening to him was the normal progression of his dementia. While my desire had always been to keep Jim home as long as possible, I felt the time when we would have to make a change was drawing near. And that was breaking my heart. In desperation I contacted a dementia specialist I had read about in the newspaper – Dr. Charles Edwards of Memory Center. If he could help us address just a few of Jim’s problems, I thought, maybe the situation would become manageable again.


Dr. Edwards immediately zeroed in on a controlled substance Jim had been prescribed three months earlier. It was a medicine typically prescribed for psychological problems, but often given to dementia patients to help with mood issues. However, the doctor told us this medicine also had a history of toxicity in a subset of seniors. Based on symptoms and behaviors he immediately observed, Dr. Edwards said he was confident this drug was at the center of Jim’s problems. Initially prescribed to Jim to actually reduce aggression, this medicine was now literally driving him crazy.

That next day Jim was admitted to a specialized unit for seniors at Carolinas Healthcare System Northeast, where he would gradually be weaned from the drug. Headed by Dr. Jon McKinsey , one of the most qualified physicians in the area of geriatric medicine, and staffed by a team of very knowledgeable nurses, this unit is a tremendous resource in the Carolinas for people struggling with these specific issues.

the toxic medicine had been eliminated from his regimen, and he was responding well to the non-toxic alternative with which it had been replaced

When Jim was released 17 days later, the toxic medicine had been eliminated from his regimen, and he was responding well to the non-toxic alternative with which it had been replaced. To me, it felt like a miracle. Three weeks prior to hospitalization, Jim’s behavior had bordered on physical abuse. Now that behavior had largely disappeared. We had been given our lives back.

This challenge turned out to be significant because we learned we could fight back and make progress. We learned we shouldn’t accept every new symptom as a natural progression of dementia. In this case, it was Jim’s prescription that had actually been responsible for his problems, which almost resulted in him having to move to a memory facility. It was an experience I knew I must keep in the forefront of my mind as we continued to navigate the challenges presented by dementia. It was the biggest hurdle we had overcome to date, and little did I know there would be even more significant battles to be fought within a very short time.


15 Responses

  1. Clark Neilson

    So glad you found Dr. Chuck! Great guy and great physician. I first met him almost 30 years ago when he did a quadruple bypass on my father in law,Robert Pharr. Chuck is a hero to many and much deserving for his self-sacrifice in medicine. Now turning his fabulously sharp brain to Alzheimer’s and dementia research, we are all blessed by what he is accomplishing on our behaves. He is a true servant leader and I admire him much! (can’t you tell)

  2. Glad to read about Jim’s improvement. So glad you have found a knowledgeable doctor who recognizes the need to suspect medication and not just prescribe it. Hang in there. Best wishes for both of you.

  3. Great post and so important! Many antipsychotic meds (and other psychiatric meds) are given to agitated seniors “off-label” to calm them down, but can make matters so much worse. Thank you for sharing so honestly about Jim’s and your experiences.

  4. Daryl Huffman

    Awesome to hear and always have you in my prayers. Keep the faith


  5. David & Vickie

    Vicki, thank you for being such a wonderful wife to Jim and such a strong and encouraging inspiration to us. May The Lord God Almighty continue to encourage, strengthen, and inspire you as He fulfills His promise and showers you and Jim with His all sufficient grace each moment of each day.

  6. Garness Thompson

    Vicki, I think about you so much and I thank God that he is giving you the strength to take care of Jim you know I took care of my Mom for 25 yrs. before she pass and I don’t regret anything I done just glad God kept me in his arms even going through Cancer the 27th of this month it will be 19 yrs. and you’re going to be Blessed for taking of your husband I miss talking to him when I call you he is a nice friendly man. I’m going to continue to keep you and Jim in my prayer, Love y’all !!!!!

  7. Faith & John Barnshaw

    Dear Vicki, This is a very encouraging note. My mother had dementia for several years and back then, about twelve years ago, the medicines may not have been as effective but I never thought of them being detrimental to her. FYI… She lived to be 96. Thank you for sharing this important lesson for all of us.

  8. Mary Barlow

    Add to David and Vickie’s prayer that He continue to give you wisdom and guidance to question when it doesn’t feel right to your spirit! May the Holy Spirit guide you each step and minute of your day. You are a blessing to so many you don’t even know through this blog. God is continually blessing you both.

  9. Vickie,I cannot put into words how moved and inspired I was by your e-mail.It is a good example of how some doctors prescribe medicines without concern or even knowledge of the side effects.You are a strong person who gets things done,God bless you and Jim each and every day

  10. Thank you for sharing these updates, Vicki.

  11. Sherry Willis

    It is so encouraging how proactive you are concerning Jim’s health. I am proud of you and thankful. You are so right about not accepting the symptoms as the norm. You are such a gift. I pray for you often as you go through this journey of healing and love. Please take the time to take care of yourself. Love Sherry.

  12. Jody Ballard

    Dear Vicki,

    My heart goes out to both you and Jim. We really don’t. know what Jim is experiencing but God does. We will continue to lift him to the Lord and God promises to give you direction and peace.
    Love you,
    ‘Jody’ Ballard


  13. Jim, Lisa, Jim Jr, Jesse, Jordan, Jenna

    My God what a wonderful thing you are doing. Not only are you not taking what is happening to Jim lying down you are providing useful information that will help thousands. Losing Lisa’s Mom to Alzheimer’s has brought to light many things and your information I know will help others to understand and find ways to improve lives. Truly proud of you cus and looking forward to more of your post.

  14. […] maintaining physical capabilities far exceeding the norm.  But as detailed in my last blog, “It’s Not Always Dementia,” another of the medications prescribed made Jim very sick and increased his physical aggression […]

  15. […] pursued trying new and different medicine combinations to improve the quality of Jim’s life. There was even a 17-day hospital stay in a specialized senior medicine unit. But with all of this, Jim was continuing to decline at a […]

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