For several years now, my father, in sporadic bursts, has been acting very strangely. I'm not sure what is causing him to act like that, and I'm not sure what to do about it, so I'm looking for advice.
posted by anonymous to health & fitness (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
First things first: I know none of you are my doctor (or my father's doctor), and I won't construe any of the comments below as medical advice.
My father is 71 years old and, overall, in pretty good health. For three or four years now, however, he sometimes goes into these "spells" where he'll act completely irrational.
By irrational, I mean laughing a lot at nothing, acting infantile (e.g., if he doesn't want to do something, he'll keep asking "why?" when asked, or he’ll pretend not to understand what you're saying), and making random observations with little or no provocation. He seems, in short, kind of punchy, and any conversation you hold with him will immediately make this apparent. He absolutely can’t be reasoned with at all, and both my mother and I get very frustrated talking to him. He'll also get very tired, sometimes sleeping for hours and hours, only to get up and sit on the couch staring at the TV, yawning loudly, complaining about how tired he is and fitfully napping.
Other signs he’s in this state are a redness in the face, looking terrible (puffy eyes, etc.), slurred speech, and a general lack of balance and coordination (the former of which, due to an old foot injury, isn’t great to begin with).
Now, I know what you’re thinking: he’s drinking. But he isn’t. (He had a drinking problem decades ago, and now only has a beer or a glass of wine on the odd occasion without incident) Sometimes these episodes have lasted three or four days, and I don’t see any way he could be sneaking drinks that long with such a sustained effect and with no side effects like a hangover.
Sometimes it seems like depression, such as when he slept for about 20 hours straight, despite numerous attempts on my and my mother’s part to wake him up, but in my mind (and I certainly could be wrong) such an explanation doesn’t jibe with this weird punchy behavior.
Now, it seems like this behavior most often comes on when he stays up very late and doesn’t get a lot of sleep, which is then reinforced when he stays up late after having slept most of the day. Trying to convince him, in this state, not to sleep during the day and to go to bed early so he’ll feel refreshed the next day are of no use. It’s like trying to argue with a willful child.
And here’s the odd thing: when it goes away it goes away suddenly, overnight, and the next day he feels fine and is totally back to normal. Oddly, he’s missed very little work because of this (maybe one or two days over the course of years), and these episodes tend to happen on weekends or on vacations.
As I said, he's in good health overall, and mentally he's 100% all the rest of the time. I don't think there's a history of dementia in his family, although I'm not totally sure.
So, those are the details. My mother is, understandably, concerned. She’s spoken to their mutual doctor about it, but because my father hasn’t complained of anything, she’s been told, there’s not much the doctor can do. My father, at my mother’s insistence, had a brain scan with apparently little result (sorry, I can’t recall exactly what the procedure was) and has spoken to a psychiatrist who has said, again, that since my father feels fine there’s nothing to do. My father, in fact, sees it all as my mother nagging him.
So, I suppose I’m asking two things: What could possibly be afflicting my father? And secondly, what can I (or my mother) do to help him? The paradox seems to be this: Taking him to the doctor is easy enough when he’s in a reasonable state, but it’s not particularly helpful since he’s not demonstrating any symptoms. On the other hand, it would be almost impossible to force him to go during an episode.
I should add, I live about eight hours away, although I’m home with my parents for the holidays now and a recent episode has gotten me worried enough to go on AskMe with it. I have setup a throwaway email address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for your help.