NOVEMBER 3, 2019 BY JAS 🍦
“Where did they go?” I hear coming from the living room.
Stepping from the kitchen to confirm whom My Love was talking about, I asked him, “Who? Where did who go?”
“They were just here. The two that were over there,” he tells me, pointing toward our entry hall. “They just stood and looked at me.”
I walk around the corner to peek into the hallway. No one there.
“Can you tell me who they were? What they looked like?”
I again tried to see if there was some recognition of anyone he could tell me about.
“Not really,” he says. He looks sad that he can’t remember. “I thought I had seen them before,” he says to be sure I know he had seem someone.
“Well, it looks like they have gone for now. Call me in next time you see them,” I say, not wanting to argue with him and hoping not to alarm him in any way.
Hallucinations have been coming just around dinner time, the same pattern, almost the same routine, for a couple years.
I recall My Love’s first shadowy sightings in the night. He woke me up to tell me someone was outside our window. I tried to convince him it was the varied thickness of the gathered drapes causing dark and light shades of gray, but he was sure that was not what he saw. I used to get up to look and suggest whoever it was had gone by the time I got there. It would not have meant a thing to remind him we live on the twelfth floor in our building!
Alzheimer’s Association (alz.org) briefly explains hallucinations:
“When a person with Alzheimer’s or other dementia hallucinates, he or she may see, hear, smell, taste or feel something that isn’t there. ….caused by changes within the brain that result from Alzheimer’s…. Some hallucinations may be frightening, while others may involve ordinary visions of people, situations or objects from the past.”
At first, before I realized hallucinations could be part of dementia, I was not sure what to think. Luckily, among my lifelines, I have had a counselor whose wisdom has carried me through many uncertainties. With her explanations and her guidance related to my responses, I feel confident about my safety and My Love’s hallucinations.
If I can leave caregivers with only one piece of absolute truth, it is find support and lifelines to accompany you on your caregiving journey.
Over the months, various people have visited My Love as ‘imagined’ figures. His brother has come most often. His daughters were here one time. He recognized those family members. But the other ‘guests’ who appear each night seem unknown to him by name. He has told me he thinks he has seen them before, but he seldom can describe them, and a name never comes.
My counselor is keen to tell me, over and over, when something new happens, seek medical help. Let the doctors assess the situation. Let them put the puzzle pieces together. I know the drill now, but she still says it often. I know ‘see his doctor right away’ is among the most valuable advice she offers.
“I can’t tell you who it is, but I know someone was there,” My Love wants me to know he really saw someone.
I affirm again, “I don’t see anyone, but I understand you saw someone.”
Sometimes I walk over and take his hand while this slight change in behaviour is going on. Other times I notice the lights are dim in the room and casually turn more on, reducing shadows. At times, I change the subject, or suggest he get out his paints or draw. I walk over and put on some music. I distract him. And sometimes it works.
Other times, I acknowledge “I know they’re gone,” while I stay calm and vigilant until he brings himself ‘out of it.’
I know it is possible. That is all I need to know. Hallucinations can relate to other diseases besides dementia or Alzheimer’s, so it is important doctors know what is going on.
After all, the doctor, too, knows this is happening, and after he advises me, I feel comfortable with what to do.
I do not doubt My Love. I assure him I did not see his guests from the kitchen. But just to confirm, I add, “it looks like they have gone now,” hoping to alleviate any fears he might have. I never know what triggers these visits. I have observed they are appearing regularly, right after his third anxiety attack of the day, timed right as dinner is being served. Response to medication? Perhaps, but I am convinced his brain is still ‘boss.’
Each night I check if there seems to be fear in his voice. I evaluate if he senses danger or if I do. If there is no type of threat present, I take his hand and sit with him. I know that when I sense danger, to call for help.
These are among the times for which I was totally unprepared. These are the times I am glad for the classes and counselors at the Alzheimer Society. I know I am not a professional.
In our area of Ontario there is a Crisis Outreach and Support Team (COAST) to call and get guidance – in real time.
Check their website to learn what services are available to help caregivers with memory loss. Put that phone number on speed dial. Your police department also may be able to guide you.
Once you speak to the receptionist at COAST, and if they ascertain that more help is needed, they will call 911.
Be sure to cover this emergency topic, role play even, with your counselor or support team. If you, as the caregiver, feel in danger, leave the scene. Call 911 to get help. Do not put yourself in danger.
The message…be prepared as much as possible. Take classes. Find support.
And now I must stop because, in his effort to help, My Love has just poured the dog’s food into her bowl with water in it. Be inspired to love!
Each day do something to make others smile and your heart sing! ~jas
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Night Visitors © 2019 Judith Allen Shone
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