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Had DUI. Feeling isolated and depressed. Noticed head shaking. Cancer survivor. Help?

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Addiction Medicine Specialist
Practicing since : 2002
Answered : 1486 Questions
My mom is 75 and recently had 2 DUI's, when the police stopped her I was told she was very argumentative and fought them hard..She is NOT an alcoholic..We think she feels isolated and depressed living in XXXXXXX housing, Now she was caught driving with a suspended license (no drinking involved). We have taken the car away, but she faces 6 months in jail unless we can prove she has a problem. We suspect the onset of dementia, but she has other issues.. She finds fault with EVERYTHING and EVERYONE...Is mean to everyone..You can't even reason with her... What type of dr. do I take her to for an evaluation? Her primary says she has no ailments except thyrod and cholesterol. I have noticed that her head shakes a lot (like parkinsons). SHe is a cancer survivor (colon) and had 6 month so chemo 3 years ago. Please help..I am scared if they sentence her to jail she will die in there. XXXXXXX
Posted Sat, 16 Nov 2013 in Mental Health
Answered by Dr. Preeti Parakh 30 minutes later
Brief Answer:
Consultation with a psychiatrist.

Detailed Answer:

I agree with you that the onset of dementia is a possibility but usually behavioral changes occur later in dementia and forgetfulness appears earlier. If you have not noticed your mother becoming more forgetful recently, then I feel that other causes must be given a serious thought.

Please sit with her and talk to her calmly asking her what went wrong on the days when she was found driving under the influence of alcohol. Ask her if she is worried about something or has some other problems that made her drink before driving. Avoid being judgmental. Rather tell her that you believe that she would not have done so in the normal course of events. Make sure that she doesn't feel that she is being criticized and needs to defend herself. I feel this will help her open up and share with you what is troubling her so that you can then help her better.

I feel that she needs to be seen by a psychiatrist so that she can be assessed and evaluated for these recent changes in behavior. Depression and anxiety may also be responsible for these and need to be treated. Even if it is dementia, the psychiatrist can diagnose it and start treatment. The head shaking may be due to Parkinson's or other neurological disorders or may also be anxiety related. The psychiatrist will be able to tell you whether she needs to see a neurologist or not. A psychiatrist's opinion will also help her in her legal issues.

I hope she gets better soon. Please feel free to ask if you need any clarifications.

Best wishes.

Dr Preeti Parakh
MD Psychiatry
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Had DUI. Feeling isolated and depressed. Noticed head shaking. Cancer survivor. Help? 3 hours later
Thank you so very much Dr. Parakh.

I have been unable to sleep with worry on how to proceed to assist my mother. Tonite she made a small scene while at a restaurant. She yells out in anger and does not care who is around...I suspect its like a cry for help?

I will try and locate a psychiatrist nearby to start finding out what the problem is.

I will get back to you and let you know how it is going. The laws are so tough today regarding DUIs...Its as bad as a criminal offense and they don't care - they will just put her in jail and I cannot let that happen. That will not solve anything.

Her third offense was where she drove over to another neighbor in her XXXXXXX community and that friend was to drive her to the store since she had a suspended license, but the person who oversees the XXXXXXX community saw her driving and called the police. My mother had previously been very angry toward her and I feel this is why she called the police. My mother is nasty and angry toward everyone and they want to get back at her.

Have a great week XXXXXXX
Answered by Dr. Preeti Parakh 2 hours later
Brief Answer:
Utilize the time to gather information.

Detailed Answer:

While you arrange to see a psychiatrist and wait for the appointment, try to observe your mother as much as possible. For example, try to find out if she suspects that people are conspiring against her and are out to get her. It may explain her aggression. Also try to gather information about any recent changes in her sleeping pattern. Ask the people who spend time with her if they have noticed any change in her behavior recently. Your mother may resent your help, which she may perceive as an interference and you must do this tactfully. If she refuses to see a psychiatrist, try to cajole her into doing so by telling her that this is to help her in her legal troubles and not because you feel that something is wrong with her. Observe her to see if she is forgetting things more than usually.

Please accompany your mother on her visit to the psychiatrist, ask to be allowed to see him/her alone and convey all the information you can gather about the change in her behavior. If your mother does not let you speak to the doctor alone, try writing a note detailing the information you have. The information that you give to the psychiatrist will be crucial in helping him/her make a diagnosis.

I hope things turn out well for your mother. This must be a harrowing time for you and the rest of the family. Please feel free to contact me any time you feel that I can be of help.

Take care.

Dr Preeti Parakh
MD Psychiatry
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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