I received a text from my sister a few weeks ago. This is a synopsis of our conversation:
Sister: Mom is going to call you.
Sister: She doesn’t remember how to dial your number so I’m calling you for her. (a cryptic answer)
Me: Hi, Mom.
Mom: Who is this?
Me: Your daughter.
Mom: What daughter? I have four, right?
Me: No, you have two.
Mom: No, that’s not right. I thought I had more.
Me: No, just the two
Mom: Well, who is this?
Me: Your daughter, Janice.
Mom: Oh, Janice. I can’t find my mom. I think she went out with my dad.
Me: She’ll be back later. Don’t worry.
Mom: It’ll be past bedtime, I suppose. (fumbles with phone.) There are some people here. Upstairs. I’m not sure who they are but I can’t find my purse.
Me: It’s probably in your room.
Mom: Who am I talking to again?
Me: Your oldest daughter.
Mom: Your two daughters are here, right?
Me: No. (sigh)
Sister gets on the phone: She thinks I’m Joyce.
Me: Who’s Joyce?
Sister: You got me. But, she wants to go outside and look in the car for the people.
Me: But, it’s zero degrees out.
Sister: I know. But, we’re going out to check on the people. She thinks they are crying.
Fantasy. Illusion. Hallucination.
It’s hard to know what to do when your Loved One sees things or hears things that aren’t really there. Oftentimes, we correct them. As you can see, I corrected my mom when she said she had more than two daughters. I wonder if a better choice would have been if I just distracted her with a different topic. But, I wasn’t expecting her insistence that she had four daughters. I wasn’t prepared to tell a fiblet. (Yes, mom, you did have four daughters and we’ll be home for supper.)
For caregivers who live full time with their LO it’s exhausting to constantly fabricate fables in effort to change the subject so mom or dad doesn’t remain upset or frustrated.
I don’t live full time with my mom and I get flustered. I also blew it when she mentioned that her purse was missing. It really wasn’t, but I had ignored her emotion. I missed the fact that she was fearful.
Paranoia is common with ALZ.
Don’t do what you want to do.
You want to correct them, right? It’s only natural to make right what is wrong. To fix the fallacy.
Caring.com suggests that you, instead, go along with their made-up story and assure them they are safe. “It is best not to argue or disagree.”
But for the family or caregiver, living the fantasy alongside your LO gets confusing, in the least.
We get startled at the new memories . . . er, fantasies . . that appear day by day. A strange new neighbor, perhaps. A new baby. (gasp!) Or a new love interest. (double gasp!)
I’m sure my sister didn’t expect my mom to confuse her with Joyce. We weren’t even sure if Joyce was real.
A few days later, my dad told us that Joyce was once a friend of hers. I wondered what happened to Joyce. Why wasn’t Joyce calling mom or visiting? For that matter, I seldom hear of any of her old friends calling her. Where were they? Sure, some of them aren’t with us any more. Some of them are in homes. But, what about the healthy ones? Of course, I know the answer.
It’s hard. Sometimes the stories my mom tells are false. Scary. Upsetting. She is liable to mislead people. And to the innocent ears of loving friends, these fantasies are capable of deception. Can you imagine if she had phoned a friend and told them people were crying in the car and she didn’t know who they were but they had stolen her purse?
For the average person, these stories may seem real.
When she was in the hospital last year, she developed a “friendship” with a girl who helped her fold towels. Or so she said. She even told me she was bringing the girl home for a visit but first the girl had to call her father. Sounded plausible but not likely.
When my mom said that her parents were out for the night, it sounded plausible. I reassured her they would be home soon. Even though, her parents died decades ago. (A fiblet)
What’re they truly looking for?
I know my mom is searching for lost love and security. She gets angry when we don’t enter into that passionate need along with her.
This is what ALZ does. It strips away the shallow and reveals the truths of life. Our needs. Our wants. Our fears. Our struggles. It draws a picture of what’s really important.
I sometimes wonder if mom’s fantasies are our fantasies. We all long for love, security, a home, acceptance, a gathering of people we call family, whether it be blood relatives or true friendships. We all long for a bit of dignity. Some importance. To be useful.
I titled this post: Fantasy, Friendships, and Fallibility.
This is us.
ALZ is us.
Stripped to the core of our desires and our fears. From dust to dust we labor and strive for love. This is what they are doing. We just deny that their desires are our true desires. Their fears are our true nightmares.
I wonder who is living the fantasy.
Us or them?