Dad thinks Mom someone else - how do we handle this?

Tomd2000 asked...

The Capgras delusion theory (or Capgras syndrome) is a disorder in which a person holds a delusion that a friend, spouse, parent, or other close family member has been replaced by an identical-looking impostor.... My 84 year old Father has these types of episodes, he thinks my mother is missing even though she is with him...he thinks my mother is someone else, and that my real mother is missing. He calls me to ask if she is with me, or If i know where she is, or if he did anything wrong to make her leave him...I don't want to cause any additional stress for him by challenging do I respond to this?

Expert Answer

Deborah Cooke is a gerontologist specializing in dementia, delirium, caregiving, and senior fitness. She is a certified dementia care provider and specialist through the Alzheimer's Foundation of America. Cooke currently manages several multidisciplinary programs to enhance well-being for hospitalized seniors and other vulnerable patients at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. She also serves on the board of NewYork-Presbyterian's Patient and Family Education Advisory Committee. She has 18 years of experience working with the aging and caregiver communities.

Delusions are very difficult for everyone to handle. I have never heard of Capgras, so you have taught me something.

Unfortunately, these delusions seem to be his reality. Rationalizing the truth is really not an option. It may further agitate him. First thing I typically do is find out if these delusions scare him. In this case, it sounds like they might, but they definitely confuse him. Sometimes, you have to roll with the punches and meet him where he is at.

Most important is to get his doctor involved to determine if medication (not desirable, but may help) or psychiatric consult will help. Be aggressive if the doctor dismisses this. Although I'm not familiar with the syndrom itself, I have experienced those with delusions. I do hope this helps, even a little. I'd love to hear any updates as to how he is doing. Hang in there.