My mother is seeing imaginary people. How do I help her without being dismissive?

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Not long ago, my mom woke me up at 2:00 a.m. and wanted me to make all those children in her house go home. She said that someone had dropped these kids off for her to babysit last month and the parents just never came back. I told her that I would call the parents and that she should go back to bed and I will care for the kids until the mom gets there to get them. She said, "What about those two that are asleep in my bed?" I almost had to laugh! I told her I thought they had already gotten up to get ready to go home. We went in the bedroom to make sure and she agreed that they were gone and went right to bed! As with all the others who comment on this site, I, too, have found that trying to convince them that they are not seeing what they "know" they are seeing is a waste of time. Only makes matters worse. Sometimes, we just have to laugh and go on down the road..........................
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Gwens1stchild, I know exactly what you're going through. My father began having hallucinations when he got his first UTI back in late 2014, and as the infection recurs he continues to have them. He sees people coming in at night through a hole in the wall behind a picture. He thinks they're trying to steal his musical instruments (he was a professional musician). Usually he'll call out, "GET OUT OF HERE! PUT THAT DOWN" and that's when I know I need to go to him. Telling him that it's his imagination would be devastating, furthermore he wouldn't believe it. Very often I'm at a loss as what to do. I've told him that I've spoken to the Police and the FBI and that the police patrols this street all night to make sure no one breaks in. A few times he's ordered me to call the police that minute - I go out of the room for a few minutes and then come back in telling him I've spoken to the police and that they knew about it and would come by our street and patrol all night. The other day he asked, "Why can't they come in here so I can talk to them?" I fished in my head and said, "They can't come investigate inside here unless they have a warrant." Happily, he believed this and went back to sleep. So, I have to constantly improvise when these things happen. I'm just as in the dark as you are, nothing prepares us for these things. Big hug and hang in there.
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I know you want to say,"oh yeah i see her/him" When i spoke to the doctor about things like that he said to gently tell her ex. shes sees her brother whos been dead for years,"now mom you know kevin has been dead for 20 years or sister lives in california. I don't envy your position, I did it for 10 years. Broke my heart over and over
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Our mom who has been given a neurologist's diagnosis of Alzheimer's (I think Lewy Body, though, sorry, Doc! 🙂), for the past 8 months has reported a "peeper", who visits just about nightly and "puts his face right up to my window and looks in as if he owns the place". He sometimes sits in the yard on a white sheet or hangs from a tree (!). She also hears music playing from her attic and, so, at her insistence, my brother went up there to assure her there was no radio, no electrical outlets to plug any device into. She also sees dead relatives - for example, my deceased dad brought a strange woman through the house one night, and that kind of ticked her off - and she hears people whispering and talking at night, often in the wee hours.
She says she isn't frightened at all - I ask her frequently if she's afraid - but she did go through a period early on when she called the police a couple of times. Not necessarily a bad thing - although we certainly didn't encourage her to call again - because the local police are now aware she has dementia and lives alone, and they assured my brother, who is a law enforcement officer, they will watch her house and check on her from time to time. (On occasion she'll threaten to call the police again but then decides, no, she doesn't want to get anyone in trouble.)
On some level, I think these visitations or hallucinations are sort of comforting to her. She seems not to mind their "presence". I have never tried to tell her she's hallucinating or delusional. My brothers attempted that. Afterwards, they would call me and tell me that, it's ok now, we convinced Mom there's really no one there - and then she would call me the next morning and say, in an exasperated tone, well, your brothers don't believe me, but I'm telling you he was out there again all last night! And I would just laugh and say, well, Mom, he must have a cold butt, because it was 15 degrees last night! And then she'd laugh, too, and we'd talk about something else.
So, we're learning to roll with the punches. It's actually not all that disturbing to me any more. I'm more concerned by her mood swings comprising - alternately - unhappiness, anger, depression, and crying, along with her frustration, as she is increasingly more confused and cannot remember.
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I received a call from the ALF where my mother lives yesterday. She apparently told one of the caregivers that "Frank (her deceased husband) told me to take some cough medicine." Who's to say he didn't tell her that very thing? Not everything is a 'hallucination', and towards the end of life, it's very common for elders to speak to their loved ones who've passed. That's not to say all elders are really speaking to their deceased loved ones, or that all elders are having 'hallucinations'. Who knows, really? Obviously, if a loved one is seeing scary monsters or getting upset, then the doctor should be consulted. But if they're just talking to a spouse or another deceased loved one, let it go........if it brings them comfort and peace, great! Angst and fear, that's another story.
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Especially when given Hydromorphone, this drug will give the elder VERY bad hallucinations.
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My mom had Lewy Body and was convinced 'people' were sleeping in her back bedroom or in the basement bedroom. Her parents. Her mother in law. My father, my brother, people she used to work with. The Kardashians came to stay for quite a while, their kid was running up and down the hall all night. It didn't bother mom much, she was more puzzled as to how they were coming and going, how they were getting around without a car. She said my brother had an office in her house, behind the fireplace, where he did paperwork. We just smiled and nodded, changed the subject. Our wonderful caregiver assured her, 'everyone is where they are supposed to be, nothing to worry about.' It was more worrisome for me as I would get looney phone calls at 2, 3, 4 a.m. (she didn't know day from night) and she would tell me the latest. Who was in the house today, and why didn't they eat the sandwiches she made and left for them in the refrigerator? She would be whispering because she didn't want to wake them up. (oh, and she wrote notes and letters for them, left them taped to the cupboards the refrigerator, the bedside nightstand. My brother, living in a group home, would get a long list of instructions as to what to wear for the day, what to have for lunch, and where she (mom) was going for the day. I would show him and we would laugh, he hadn't been living in her house for years, but she was still dressing her baby boy so he wouldn't get wet in the rain.) ..... As long as mom wasn't upset by the invisible people, it was just something we lived with. She would forget about them for long lengths of time, but someone new would always be coming along.
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My mother had hallucinations they were very real to her. Do not try to convince her otherwise. I agree with Hugemom, you have to humor her and try to comfort her when she's upset or afraid. Distraction might not work in this situation. Good luck
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The way I dealt with this issue (my mother suffered from it, too) was when she would say "there's a man sleeping on the floor" (of her NH room), I would turn and look at the floor and say "mother, there is no man there."
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I agree with everything here. There is also a book called Final Gifts by a couple of hospice nurses that says the same thing--how people nearing the end of their lives often see people the rest of us can't see, and how this can be a very positive and spiritual experience. I found the book very comforting!
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