How should I handle my mother's hallucinations?

Vonney asked...

In the past several weeks, my 90-yr. old mother is 'entertaining' a man she calls Zachary. She even sets a place and meal for him at her table but says he always has to leave early so never eats it. Today when I called her to see how she was doing, she was 'entertaining' Zachary's 2 little nieces, Gloria & Nancy. She said they were such cute little "baby dolls" and that she was letting them pick out some of her earrings. Other than this, Mom is totally aware of her environment and is still her own person. As a nurse and long-time caregiver, I would like to think I understand this, yet being this is my mother, I was taken aback initially. Now I don't say much when she brings this up and try to interject other goings-on in her day, eg. what's her next crocheting project, a favorite tv program, what is she making for dinner, etc. Do you feel I am handling this appropriately? Thank you.

Expert Answer

Bethany Grace Buchanan, Registered Nurse, Memory Care Home Owner of Grace Homes, and Consultant


I empathize with the shock it may be for you to see and hear your mother with dementia hallucinating by caring for people who are not there.

When you are visiting her, I advise you to acknowledge these fictitious people's presence first thing to put your mom's mind at ease. Since she thinks there are other people in the room, it may feel awkward to her unless you do this.

Then, I suggest you move on to engaging her in tasks or conversation and attempt to ignore the fictitious people as you have been doing.

This technique is Validation Therapy which is the caregiver validating whatever the person with memory loss believes to be true in an effort to keep them calm and engaged.

I hope you find this answer helpful