Does Grandma Have ADHD? The Prevalence of Seniors with ADHD

Does Grandma Have ADHD?

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how do i know if my mom has dementia

This post was originally published on February 5, 2016.

Attention Deficient Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), the condition formally known as ADD, gets about as much respect as Snoop Dogg after he rapped on that Katy Perry song. Though I can personally attest to it being a real thing, admitting you have ADHD often feels like complaining about restless leg syndrome. In other words, people think it’s bullshit. Thankfully, the medical industry does not. And NPR recently reported that more people over the age of 50 are accepting the ADHD diagnosis.

Picture It: Me on Speed

I know what you are thinking: this is just a hoax so Grams can score Adderrall. You might be right. People in their golden years aren’t exempt from wanting to get high. In fact, this is exactly the sort of scheme Sophia might cook up to avoid getting sent to Shady Pines (Golden Girls fan anyone?). But just because seniors with ADHD missed the 80s ADD diagnosis wave doesn’t mean they don’t have it. We are sometimes quick to discredit advancements in medicine just because people lived “just fine” without it. But did they?

According to Dr. David Goodman, a specialist in ADHD at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, there are many people who come to see him thinking they have dementia when they are actually seniors with ADHD. So the sweet old lady next door who keeps forgetting to turn her oven off might not be senile, she could just need a prescription for Ritalin.

My mother and I have long joked that we don’t need the gym, we get all the exercise we need by going upstairs and forgetting why we went up there then going back down just to remember why we needed to go upstairs again, and so on. Turns out, there is truth in our jest. Goodman says that ADHD often runs in families and that if a parent has it, then there is a 50% chance their child will have it as well.

It Didn’t Just Get up and Walk Away

If you have ever lost something that you know was just in your hand, you understand how the stress of not knowing what happened to it can actually make things worse. If you are like me, your frustration levels go through the roof. You tell the people waiting for you that you aren’t going anywhere until you find your left shoe.

“Just wear a different pair,” your boyfriend says, trying to help but getting dangerously close to being murdered. You soon escalate to slamming doors, throwing things and telling the people you love to f**k off.

This temper tantrum isn’t merely emotionally immaturity and lack of coping skills (although it’s definitely that); it’s an underlying fear that something is really wrong with you. I take medication for my ADHD now, so I have these moments a lot less. Though I am sure it’s not that uncommon for anyone to misplace their keys, people who don’t think they are mentally deteriorating seem to react by being perplexed but then move on while someone like me has a full-blown anxiety attack.

Knowing Is Most of the Battle

My point is, when it feels like you are losing your mind, it’s very helpful to understand that you actually aren’t losing your mind. Dementia is a scary thing, surrounded by sensitive issues like as fear of aging, fear of being dependent on others and fear of being treated like an idiot. There isn’t much that can be done about Dementia but there are several treatments for seniors with ADHD.

But not everyone is a candidate for the stimulant medication prescribed for spacey moments and forgetfulness. People with heart issues, high blood pressure or a previous addiction to meth probably shouldn’t mess around with drugs like Ritalin, Adderrall or Vyvanse (although there are some non-stimulant alternatives out there). However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go get tested. It’s a lot easier to laugh at yourself when you miss the exit and end up in a different state when you know it’s just ADHD.

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Danielle Stewart is a Los Angeles-based writer and recovering comedian. She has written for Showtime, E!, and MTV, as well as print publications such as Us Weekly and Life & Style Magazine. She returned to school and is currently working her way towards a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves coffee, Law & Order SVU, and her emotional support dog, Benson.