How should I handle my mother's hallucinations?

5 answers | Last updated: Jan 24, 2015
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 Answers

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

Community Answers

Annielaurie1 answered...

i'd just go with if its not hurting you or her then i'd do what your doing now my mom talks to people that are not there amd tells story we should write down as they are not 1/2 bad

Annieg answered...

My Mom thinks that everyone is talking about her because she has done bad and awful things. My Mom has been a devoted Christian all her life and raised 6 great children. She would never do any thing to hurt anyone. I try to reassure her and remind her of all the times when we had slumber partys with our friends over and how they thought she was just the best Mom ever, which she was. It breaks my heart to see her so fretful and unhappy. I think changing the subject and talking about the funny things that have happened in their lives has work well for me for the time being.

1whocares answered...

Vonney-I so relate to your response of being taken aback when this first started happening to your mother, despite your nursing background. I worked for 25 years as a hair stylist and it was not uncommon to work on people displaying these symptoms, yet it was altogether different when it was my dad in that chair. I would like to recommend a helpful article I just read on titled,"This may be the most useful Alzheimer's Advice". My father is suffering from delusions and hallucinations as a part of Alzhiemer's and we are still working on balancing meds and his care plan. The first thing I try and do when my dad is having a troubling hallucination is to sit down with him and listen. Sometimes this will take quite some time because there is a lengthy story attached and a history that goes along with it. If I take the time to listen, though, there are always gems along the way; tiny tidbits of information that give me a glimpse into what is bothering him - the root of the story. Sometimes it is something he is afraid of or something he feels he must accomplish that is left undone, but most often the cause seems to come from his feeling of being powerless and that no one is listening to him. I ask him questions along the way to encourage his talking and then listen, listen, listen. I can usually sense when he feels he has talked enough and then I ask him what he thinks we should do about this problem. From there I have to put on my creative thinking cap to come up with a viable 'something' we can actually do that gives him a feeling of resolution. It can be the smallest thing, but I think it gives him back some sense of having a moment of control in his life when we do something to address his concerns. Then redicrection comes in to play. I've listened, we've isolated the problem and come up with a solution, now it's time to move on to something else. I have to say, when the hallucinations first started, I was more than taken aback. I was shocked and scared. Now they have become a part of what we deal with as a part of this disease. Through it all I am building my toolkit of answers to reach for when behavior gets difficult. It sounds like your mom is at least having pleasant hallucinations. Without discounting your dismay, just know that you are not alone as we travel into their world together. I am learning more from my father about how people connect with each other than I ever imagined possible. God Bless, 1whocares

Rosar answered...

Hello Vonney, To find out more about Validation Therapy which Bethany is speaking of you can go to this link: