My mom is undiagnosed but has been mentally unwell my entire life. In November seemingly out of no where she began to hallucinate. She has called the cops on the “people in the house” so we thought it may be a medical emergency. We took her to the doctor who Baker Acted her (involuntary treatment). She was medically cleared at the hospital and spent 3 days in the psych ward where she had no hallucinations. She was released and has refused any follow up treatment, medication, counseling etc and were were told it is her right to do so. She is back home and it has started again. Does this sound like sz to anyone? We aren’t sure if this may be dementia. Regardless, how do you deal with hallucinations of a loved one?
My current notes for his doctor since he’s having them right now:
“Says the hallucinations (eyes closed and open) are giving him anxiety. Began crying. Too many hallucinations. Grinding teeth and jaw, grimacing. Body shaking. After 15 minutes gave him my teddy bear and he calmed down. Continued having bursts off crying on/off after a few minutes. This continued for another hour, said he wanted to be alone.”
You just try as a human… Try to be supportive and understanding, even speak to them about their hallucinations and follow their lead without being manipulated ans staying clear-headed. Ask questions if you need to about her voices and hallucinations to further understand what’s racing through her mind and her perspective.
How old is your mother? Does she show any other signs of dementia?
Looking backwards, my grandfather had hallucinations about 10 years before I could recognize he was having dementia. Of course, I wouldn’t have wanted to see it. He’d be fine, then right out of the blue he’d say he saw people in the neighbors yard (strangers) doing something somewhat bizarre, but not out of the realm of possibility.
Later on, it became more bizarre - like he became fascinated with the stoplights in the front yard that had been there for about 20 years. He started to say there were men inside who physically changed the lights from one color to the next. Not too long after that, it started to go downhill faster. As he began to forget things more, sometimes who we were, he became more angry as well, and he started sleeping much less.
I’d say he started in his early 70s while he was still very healthy physically. He died at 83, and at that point, I don’t think he knew who most of us were.
My grandmother was slower. She was pretty good until around 83 when my grandfather passed, then she was OK as long as she was in her normal surroundings. If she had to go to the hospital even overnight, she’d be calling the police and anyone who would listen to tell them they were killing people in there or she saw people getting shot in the parking lot. She wouldn’t know where she was - she’d convince herself that her apartment had been burned down and she was in a place where they evacuated people. Once she got back home, she’d slowly come back to herself in about 48 hours.
She didn’t know any of us when she died at 88, but she had broken her hip about 4 months earlier, had to have surgery, and never came back mentally. It was a sudden drop in mental capacity.
If your mother has been mentally unwell her whole life, then if she’s been stressed, it would be easier for her to go into psychosis. People like to jump straight to SZ out of fear, but lots of things can cause psychosis - and under the right conditions, anyone can have it.
Some physical health problems can cause psychosis.
Bad reactions to some drugs can cause psychosis.
Withdrawal from drugs or alcohol can cause psychosis.
If you stop sleeping for long enough, it can cause psychosis.
And, dementia or really bad depression/anxiety can cause psychosis.
If she’s older, and this is the first time she’s hallucinated, I’d look at other reasons. I don’t think very many people develop SZ later on in life. Of course, there are also people who go through their life mildly psychotic for a very long time and are just good at hiding it, like maybe she hid it in the hospital.
If it’s truly dementia, the best thing to do is just roll with it if it’s not dangerous to do so. I have no advice about how to deal with visual hallucinations otherwise. My son says he’s only rarely had those, and whenever he has, he’s realized what they were. He’s more of the paranoid/grandiose delusional type.
I think for him, I’d just tell him I’m not seeing what he sees, just like I tell him I can’t read his mind or hear his thought broadcasts no matter how psychic he thinks he is while he’s delusional. However, I always agree that I could be wrong, and he could be right, because it doesn’t do a lot of good to directly challenge them when they’re really, really sick. You have to be very neutral without reinforcing their ideas.
My MIL suffered from anxiety all her life, and, as was also written eventually on her geriatric psych diagnosis, an “underlying psychiatric disorder”. We had always suspected she had some sort of an issue. In her 70’s, her neighbors began reporting new unusual behaviors. One morning she rushed out of her house screaming that some one was inside her house. Police took her to a hospital where she was diagnosed with vascular dementia.
The tricky part was that in the early stages she presented as absolutely “normal” most of the time. It can be worthwhile to know that some people with dementia can suffer from anosognosia and have no awareness of their illness - the same as some people suffering from schizophrenia or bipolar.
Before the last stages of her vascular dementia she could engage in a conversation, seemingly in her right mind and the next sentence could be about something that wasn’t real.
We didn’t argue with her or correct her, we just acted like what she was saying was real. There wasn’t anything to be gained by confusing her more, or making her feel sad about herself.