Handling Hallucinations–Hard on Husbands
Hallucinations at Night
As autumn days approach and darkness comes earlier, Mom’s “sundowning” and hallucinations are getting worse. Fortunately, she isn’t having the kind of hallucinations that frighten her. Sometimes those with dementia have paranoia-type hallucinations and fear someone is trying to harm them. My mom’s blindness is a good thing in this regard. We don’t have to worry about her seeing an image in the mirror or windows that frightens her. She was speaking to someone she thought was sitting in her wheelchair this morning, though.
Some of her hallucinations are comforting to her. She often experiences seeing her great-grandchildren. Sometimes those visual experiences include the macabre. Two nights ago she told us at dinner that she saw our grandson walking around the graveyard in our backyard (I assure you no buried bodies are in the backyard.) and that the people were asking him to sing. She said she didn’t know he could sing and seemed pleased he could. This didn’t upset her but seemed to connect her to her great-grandchildren she doesn’t see often. She has “seen” them several times of the last few weeks.
Last Night No Sleep For Dad
Last night I should have realized sooner what was happening. As I was helping her with her pre-bedtime routine after dinner, she asked me which nurse I liked best of the two that came that day. Only one nurse visited. I replied I only saw one so I couldn’t say who I liked best. In hindsight, I should have just asked who she liked best. She responded aggressively, insisting two nurses were there. I changed the subject. When I took, her to her chair she turned to my dad and asked, “Didn’t you see two nurses here today?” He told her no, he only saw one. She got angry and upset so he changed his story to say he saw two. My dad has no idea how to handle these behavioral changes. I tried to hand signal him to reply honestly about what he saw while acknowledging she saw something different. Caught out at that point, he was stuck. He didn’t know how to recover. Then she insisted there were three. It was a no-win.
The night went downhill from there. She was up most of the night hallucinating–there was a young man in their room, she was in Portland, Oregon, where my parents met and lived early in their marriage. He spent most of the night holding her transfer belt to keep her from falling and trying to get out of bed. She fought and argued with him. He called me at 12:30 AM and again at 5 AM but he didn’t tell me she had been awake between times, only that she needed the bathroom. After using the bathroom, she was wide awake, wanting to get up for the day. She didn’t sleep but continued to fight with Dad. He got very little sleep and it shows today. That kind of night is tough on a 93 year old.
Dad and I will discuss later today about how to handle “sundowning”, nighttime confusion, and hallucinations going forward. He may not remember, he will have difficulty when she throws him a curveball. She may change and begin having paranoia, which I think will be harder for him. She’s always depended on him as her protector, a role he relishes. If she becomes afraid of him, he’ll be crushed.
I overheard a sweet exchange two nights ago after I returned her to bed from a nighttime, bathroom excursion. Confused, not sure where the bathroom was, not sure where she was, she struggled walking to the bathroom and back. When she was in bed and tucked in again and I was leaving the room I heard my dad, in the dark, say, “I love you, Carol.” It brought tears to my eyes. I know this hasn’t been easy for anyone but especially for him. He’s hung in there though, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, and for that I admire him.
Have a Good Caregiving Day,