How do I help Mom handle her hallucinations, and stop feeling guilty about getting upset with her?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 27, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Mother is 92; I work full time,have home etc. Mom seems to always be unhappy/depressed. she is on medication. She sits in her apt. all day because she does not feel good; we take her for checkups etc. She is negative about everything. She now again is seeing a things in her apt. says her sink in kitchen is linking and no one cares and w/not fix. Some one is taking her clothes and other things. I have tried to explain to her at her age her mind plays tricks. No one is taking her clothes, there is no cat and water. I have found this only makes her agitated and mad, so I just listen. It is getting so hard to deal with Mom, I know she is my Mom I love her so much and want to make her happy, but every time I speak with her I get so down myself. She has macular degeneration and can not see well, she can not hear, I feel so guilty for getting upset with her, because I know she is my mom and 92. I pray for paitence and understanding and feel badly about myself. I have a sister who helps me a lot, she takes Mom to all her Dr visits and feels as I do.
What can I do?

Expert Answers

Jytte Lokvig, PhD, coaches families and professional caregivers and designs life-enrichment programs and activities for patients with Alzheimer's disease and related dementia. Her workshops and seminars help caregivers and families create a healthy environment based on dignity and humor. She is the author of Alzheimer's A to Z: A Quick-Reference Guide.

Your mother's behavior and imaginings are pretty typical symptoms of Alzheimer's and most related dementias, aggravated in people who have little stimulation in the way of purposeful activities and social interaction. Loneliness often leads to depression as well as illness. Your mother needs stimulation.

Check your local senior services for some kind of activity program; hopefully there's an adult daycare program in your area. Your local Alzheimer's support group or Alzheimer's Association can also be of help. You may be able to set up Share-Care group with other families in a similar situation. "Share Care" for your parents or other loved ones with Alzheimer's or related dementia is similar to the play-dates we had for our youngsters. You can either pool your resources with other families to hire a single companion for the group or you can take turns yourselves.

When she's left alone to "entertain" herself and with nothing to distract or divert her, it's easy to see how she can succumb to fixating on people being in her room and the sink leaking. Another factor may be at play in your mother's situation. The senses are affected by these diseases; taste and smell are usually greatly reduced and the sense of hearing may be affected, diminished or distorted "“ some people become very sensitive to loud noises and others experience distorted hearing.

People with memory problems will often accuse others of stealing from them. They have forgotten what they themselves did with items, so when they can't locate them, "someone must have taken them." Of course you had nothing to do with it, but trying to explain that to her may only lead to an argument and remember that ARGUING NEVER WORKS. She may be talking about something that hasn't been around in a long time, but you'll only invite conflict if you try to convince her that it was given to charity several years. Instead of trying to reason with her, simply tell her that you'll be glad to help her locate the missing items and then immediately offer her a diversion.