Q: My aunt, has within the last 6 years become addicted to scratch off tickets at any local gas station. I worry about her safety. She lives alone (insists on it) and comes and goes as she pleases. She states that this gambling is her social life. She knows all the other gamblers that hang out in the same places. Anyway, she does has a bowel and incontinence problem which we have just recently gone for an MRI because of that. We will have some results tomorrow. She has no interest in doing anything else. Whatever we suggest she says she doesn’t feel like. She will not go to therapy or church. However, she does read. Do I just let her be? Any suggestions would be well received.
Frontotemporal Dementia Can Cause Gambling Compulsions
It sounds like a pretty tough situation with your mother. I think the course of action will depend on your mother’s test results and consultation with her physician.
There is one type of dementia in particular that will sometimes manifest itself as a gambling compulsion and that is called “frontotemporal dementia” or sometimes “frontal lobe dementia”. This is dementia that affects the frontal lobe of the brain, which is responsible for many of our inhibitions.
People who experience damage to this part of their brain from dementia or some other cause will often have personality changes and will sometimes develop gambling problems
For example, a study (only the abstract is available) talks about “frontotemporal dementia presenting as pathological gambling“.
Another article from this year has more info on that connection.
I don’t mean to “diagnose” your mother from afar, but this is the first think I thought of when you wrote and may be something to discuss with your mother’s physician if she or her hasn’t already brought up the possibility.
I know it can be difficult, but this is the type of situation where you may need to consider guardianship and power-of-attorney. Obviously that’s something you’d want to talk about with her physician and ideally, family members or other trusted advisors, but it may be worth exploring for your aunt’s sake.