What a fantastical interesting summer Mom had.
She went on not just one, but two cruises with her dogs and her Aunt Elsie, who is quite overweight. Mom said Elsie was off balancing the ship. We learned that Roger was the captain. (It’s interesting that she chose Aunt Elsie to go on a cruise with because Aunt Elsie’s sister drowned on a cruise ship. Psychologists-could someone analyze that?)
While on the cruise, Mom said she had a rough time keeping track of the kids. But, she had fun. At least in her mind. Except when she was panicking about the weather.
Of course, she really never left town.
This summer, we were also surprised to learn that she had been kidnapped and was apparently gone for twenty months before her teacher helped her.
Oh, and her mother got arrested.
Delusions are Real
It’s not that she’s lying. In the confines of her private mind, the events are real. Sometimes I wonder if she’s upset that none of us are sharing our cruise memories or jabbering about her trips or oohing and awing that she had been kidnapped.
No wonder she’s so anxious. I imagine she feels alone. Solitude can be detrimental to our health. An overabundance of lonely solitude hurts in places we can’t find.
I don’t think we’ll ever know why my mom ended up with AD. It wasn’t because she wasn’t sleeping. My dad was the insomniac. Mom slept.
Except now, with her sundowner’s, she fights going to bed until very late. She needs to check on everything. But, lately, once she’s down, she’s asleep for the night.
However, I know she feels lonely. She’s constantly telling me she’s trying to figure it all out. I know she’s frustrated. I just tell her I’m trying to figure things out too. Sometimes she remarks, This too shall pass.
Sadly, this won’t pass.
Not in this life.
The delusions will remain.
So, we try to enter into her stories. It’d be ridiculous for us to confront her or correct her or dismiss her. That only leads to frustration on everyone’s part. But, an affirmation that we have heard her goes a long way. So much better than trying to reality orient her.
Simple is Best
Helen Keller once said, “I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but my chief duty is to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”
It is a small but great and noble task to reassure your loved one. They need affirmation. They need connection. They need to not feel crazy.
Be great and noble; keep your remarks simple.
Here’s an example of what we say:
Mom: The weather was nasty on the cruise last night.
Us: Did you feel sick?
Mom: Well, not so much sick but I was worried about the kids.
Us: You really love your kids, don’t you?
That’s enough. Mom really just wants to be heard. It’s a noble act to listen without judgment or rush to respond with criticism. Put down your phone. Be present. Take their hand.
Just listen then feedback to them what you heard them say. Affirm that you heard them. Assure them you’re on their side.
That’s good advice for every relationship.
Here are a few more good ideas from ALZ Australia on how to deal with people who are having delusions or hallucinations.
Also, Understanding Dementia , a free nine-week MOOC, is open for enrollment. Great course!