Do people with dementia see people that aren't there?
When the brain becomes damaged by Alzheimer’s disease or a related illness, it begins to have difficulty making sense of the environment. The sensory organs, such as the eyes and ears, may be working but the brain is not able to correctly interpret the signals from those organs. As a result, the person with dementia may see things that are not really there, hear voices or sounds that do not exist, or smell odors that nobody else seems to detect. These are all examples of hallucinations. Trying to convince the person that the people do not exist will most likely be unsuccessful. Instead, validate the person’s feelings and reassure the individual that he or she is safe and redirect him or her to something pleasant. Most importantly, if a person seems to be exhibiting changes in behavior, it is imperative to see a healthcare professional. The doctor will need to evaluate the person for any problems that could be causing the hallucinations. This could include side effects of medications, infections, dehydration or other medical conditions. In addition, the doctor may recommend a medication intervention to help subside these symptoms.
In my experience with my mom, at a certain stage they do see people who aren't there. At various times, she saw her parents (who were long gone), thought she was at the airport (when she was at the nursing station), thought she was at the small store she used to own (when she was in a crowded hallway at the nursing home). And one time I walked into her room and said hello. Someone else came into the room and I introduced myself to the person as Dorian. Mom told me I wasn't Dorian, because that person at the other side of the room was Dorian (there wasn't anybody where she pointed). So I asked her who I was; she thought about it for a moment and then used my family nickname.
So yes, it is quite possible that the loved one with dementia is responding to someone who isn't there. My advice is to just go with the flow and not correct them. Move the conversation to a topic you're comfortable with and go from there.
Take care and keep us posted!
Thank you ! I just changed the subject with my mom. She is telling me that there's a man following her. It is very strange for me because it is the first time she does this. I followed the flow, and now I changed the subject like you said. But this is really sad, now she is telling that she saw her boyfriend from the past around our neighborhooh ... Does this also mean that her alzheimer's is progressing ????.... that would make me sad, but what is your advice?
Unfortunately, as the disease progresses, it attacks short term memory first. Then the loved one can start seeing people from their past (due to the fact that that part of the brain has not been attacked yet). In Mom's case, she began seeing her parents. If she asked about them, I would not tell her that she was not seeing them (and I especially never did tell her that they were no longer alive). Instead, I would work to change the conversation to another topic.
Take care and hang in there!
I am sorry your Mom sees people who are not there... My father-in-law has late Alzheimer's but he has never done that yet. However, he does recognize people wrongfully and he no longer knows what roles people are to him anymore. He likes to talk to women in the residential care facility because he is lonely and likes to have a mate. Maybe he would see someone that is not there later. I would think that finding things for her to do would help. Try the day care center and see if she can find more friends. I think they probably are lonely and need their own peers.
Just my 2 cents,Nina
Thank you very much for your advice. It's comforting to know we can relate to others despite the circumstances.
Take care as well
all the best!
Thank you for your advice, any advice I can get is more than welcome. We are waiting upon her insurance to go through, so that we can do just that; send her to a daycare facility with other patients of Alzheimer's. Fingers are crossed.
Here is a link to two shareposts about the types of hallucinations experienced by people with Alzheimer's that you may find helpful
My 88 year old mother frequently "sees" me as the Assisted Living bus driver, "sees" me getting out of a number of different cars in the parking lot, "sees" me working at the facility... even has face to face conversations with people that she thinks are me, and becomes very frustrated when told by these folks that they are not her son. She thinks that they are lying to her... it gets worse. Mom also thinks that her deceased sister is "with" her in the assisted living studio apartment that she resides in. There are times when she will acknowledge that it can't be so. The delusions apparently are brought on by her lonliness, even though I visit with her daily. Those visits seem less frequent to her because she frequently naps and awakens thinking that it is morning again. Recently, my mother zeroed in on a woman in the dining room 2 tables away and declared her to be my wife. In summary, mom "sees" people who aren't there and sees people who are there, as someone else. It's a very difficult situation!