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My mother's occasional gibberish attacks and word loss
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My mother's occasional gibberish attacks and word loss

My mother, 65 years old, occasionally and mostly in moments when she is very stressed or even panicked, will start a sentence normally and start to stutter slightly, then her words sort of devolve into random syllables. At that point she stops talking entirely, because she's completely aware of it and finds that taking a few seconds to reorganize her thoughts helps her get her speech back. For example, she might try to say "I need you to call (someone)" and it comes out as "I need you t-t-to c-c-cargarbargar".

She has told me that she can't just "power through" such incidents, that it only gets worse if she tries. It almost never happens in public, but just recently it happened at a fast-food drive through and she was extremely upset by this.

She also has occasional word loss and will use other words that carry a similar concept in place of a word she can't remember, like "refrigerator" replacing "dishwasher" or "vacuum cleaner" in place of "lawnmower". Sometimes she uses words that sound similar, but this isn't as often as conceptually similar words.

She tells me that when these things happen, she has the image and concept of the thing she can't remember in mind, but the name isn't there.

Also, over the last 20 years, she has noticed a drastic drop in her vocabulary, which used to be very advanced.

In terms of possible causes, the most likely is a car accident she was in roughly 45 years ago, where she suffered, among other things, several hundred skull fractures (as she tells me, but she can exaggerate). She also suffered a great deal of peripheral nerve damage throughout her body, and those two things say to me that she obviously suffered pretty heavy brain trauma (though she wasn't in a coma at any point, and needed no brain surgery). I understand that in adults, the three major causes of cognitive/speech problems like this are stroke, tumor, or lesion, and I think lesion is the most likely, but it's definitely been getting worse over the last 10 years.

She isn't unable to function normally, but these "episodes" are very alarming to all of us in my family (including her) and while they aren't frequent, they are happening more often. She is also having worse problems with remembering words (names of things, people on occasion), and she is very scared of losing the ability to speak entirely in her old age.

I know there isn't much to be done aside from therapy when it comes to things like this, but at this point it'd be great to even know what a condition like this is called. I hope my explanation is clear enough for a rudimentary diagnosis.
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8 Comments Post a Comment
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Avatar_m_tn
Several hundred skull fractures is definitely an exaggeration on my part as well. "Several" or "numerous" would be more accurate.
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Avatar_m_tn
I am not a doctor, but it sounds very much like what a person who suffers a stroke goes through. She wouldn't have to have a major one, people can have minor strokes.

For her sake, and I am not trying to scare you, but please get her to the doctor.

Regardless of what it is, there might still be time to take care of it.

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Avatar_m_tn
As I understand it, the warning signs of a stroke are numbness on one side of the body and slurred speech. She has had neither of these, and has no loss in motor control or cognitive ability. I will however defer to a professional if they agree with you on this, but my own knowledge says to me that it's not because of a stroke.                  
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1524811_tn?1333244901
my dad had days like this AFTER he suffered his 1st minor stroke & it was only after his 2nd one that the numbness & weakness happened.  It could also possibly be start of Alzheimer's.  My grandmother was just diagnosed with that & it's how it started.

PLEASE keep us updated & wish you & your mom all the best

Melissa
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Avatar_m_tn
Thank you for your reply. I am not about to entirely rule out miniature strokes (TIA's) or even early Alzheimer's, but they seem far less likely than the already known issue of her head trauma and skull fractures. She has had problems like this for 21 or 22 years, but only in times of severe stress and only in the last 10 years have they gotten more frequent (but again, only in times of severe stress, of which we have plenty in our household.

Again, she is not functionally disabled in any way. She can drive, she can write perfectly fine, she has no coordination problems, she never forgets how to do things, and she is still perfectly able to work the same job she's been doing for the last 40 years.

Again, she doesn't have any kind of fundamental cognitive slipping, just problems with words.
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Avatar_f_tn
You are discribing my mom, minus the stuttering. She is a diabetic ,was  not on the right meds, and very stressed. I had to move her in with me.I also notice this happens when my mom is stressed it gets worse. She also gets irritated more easily. We have been told it is the start of dementia. She can be totally normal- the last episode was 2 years ago. The doctor told is the time in between will get shorter and the episodes last longer. Other than that she is in better health than me. She is 74.
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1006035_tn?1391310794
I have read that eating fish and fish oil supplements help your memory, especially as you age. Does she exercise at all? That helps with all over health, including the brain. I would start learning about diets and life styles that help the brain. It is very good that she is aware this is happening to her and is able to pause. Talking to a doc also sounds like a great idea.
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Avatar_f_tn
Sorry I just stumbled on this—several yrs late of course, but I wonder how ur mom is doing or if u ever found out what was happening with her. Ik it's unlikely u will read this, but last night something similar happened to me. I am only 38, but I've been in6 car accidents, 1 motorcycle accident, and suffered head traumas as a very young child due to severe physical abuse. But last nite I was talking to the CA Tax Board trying to straighten out some things. It had been a very stressful day, as I had just had to do the same thing earlier in the day but with the IRS. My husband is mentally ill and afar is of the IRS and wouldn't open or check the mail or give it to me, so we got in trouble. I am bedridden with severe fibromyalgia, and am on 4-6 meds (depends on the day). Anyway, the guy from the CA line was very rude and mean, talking to me like I was a piece of filthy trash that was just  wasting my money and refusing to pay my taxes (even though I was the one calling them—we had just lost our only source of income completely and literally had no money, which is why we had to call). Anyway, I hung up the phone and cried my eyes out, and I couldn't stop, and it escalated into kind of a panic attack: I was hyperventilating and couldn't get enough air, and couldn't stop crying. But usually panic attacks for me are much worse. But then my husband walked in and I had had to call the CA line again, and was on their waiting list on speakerphone. He asked me what was wrong and at first I started speaking normally, but then he started to pray for me, and I was still crying, and then suddenly I started talking gibberish. It was very rapid and clear. I had no idea what I was saying. I could understand him perfectly well. I could hear him fine. I didn't have numbness or tingling like I susually do with panic attacks. I did begin to shake a lot. But every time I would open my mouth to try to explain something, it came out as rapid gibberish. I even tried to force some of the words thru but all that would happen was a similar sound to the beginning of the word would come out, but then it would be followed up by a long string of gibberish that I couldn't stop. I even tried to cover my mouth at one point. This lasted from about 5 pm until past midnight. When I woke up at 5:30 I could speak normally again. I had no headaches. Was I having a mental breakdown? My son asked if I was going mad and my daughter ( helpful teenagers) said, "yes." Well I certainly hope that's not the case, but I'm worried. I don't want to go see a dr. Especially now when it's not even happening and try to explain this to them and have them run me up a medical bill for tens of thousands of dollars for every test conceivable, or worse yet, shake their heads and say it's just in my head. Plz does anyone know.
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