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Anyone any experience of Capgras Syndrome?

Discussion in 'I care for a person with dementia' started by Bessieb, Jan 5, 2016.

  1. Bessieb

    Bessieb Registered User

    Jun 2, 2014
    Hello all,
    My Mum (83 and with Alzheimers) has been suffering intermittently from a delusion that my Dad (85, also with Alzheimers and in the CH with her) is not her husband but someone else.
    We can't work out a trigger for it but it has been happening for about 8 weeks on an intermittent basis - maybe once or twice a week - and when it happens it's really distressing. She goes from being very calm, placid and chatty to panicked, screaming and abusive very quickly. No amount of reassurance that my Dad is my Dad seems to work. The CH have been brilliant and have worked out a strategy for dealing with the situation ..they take my Dad away for half an hour or so and then reintroduce him with lots of positive chat. It seems to work generally and she flips back to being 'normal' - talking to my Dad as she always has done with great affection. But the episodes are really upsetting for everyone and can last anything from half an hour to three hours My Dad, whose Alzheimers is generally worse, doesn't remember the day after but at the time he's fairly distraught.

    So the CH have referred my Mum to the CPN for review to get their view. They think it might be something called Capgras Syndrome where someone periodically thinks their closest relative has been replaced by an imposter. They have suggested that there might be a mild medication that might help. Not sure about this - currently neither of my parents is on any medication apart from Donepezil.

    I'm not unhappy at all about how the CH is handling it - in fact I'm really impressed with them - but just wondering if anyone else has any experience of this syndrome and how it is being managed? Particularly any medication?
  2. Spiro

    Spiro Registered User

    Mar 11, 2012
  3. Bessieb

    Bessieb Registered User

    Jun 2, 2014
    Thank you Spiro. Yes this is what they think it might be. So hoping it doesn't increase in frequency. It's just about manageable at the moment when it's only happening occasionally but I'm not quite sure what would happen if it started to be a very regular thing. They share a room at the CH at the moment and this has worked really well, keeping them together but I don't know whether this would work if Mum regularly didn't have a clue who Dad was!
  4. jaymor

    jaymor Volunteer Moderator

    Jul 14, 2006
    Two years before my husband went into nursing care he had lost me as his wife. He always referred to me as the nice lady who looked after him while he waited for his wife to come. He found it strange we had the same name but said as his memory was bad it was helpful we had the same name.

    This started gradually with just a short time of doubt but soon became permanent. Five years on he has lost everyone but is content to be with me and allow me to help him and though I don't like it I have accepted it and our life goes on. No one ever put a name to this, it was just looked on as progression of the disease.
  5. sleepless

    sleepless Registered User

    Feb 19, 2010
    The Sweet North
    #5 sleepless, Jan 6, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2016
    My late Mum had vascular dementia and would sometimes not recognise my dad as her husband, and this would last for several minutes or several hours, then she would suddenly seem to 'come back' to reality and know him again.

    But this is not Capgras Syndrome. As I understand it, with Capgras the person acknowledges that the person they have the delusion with (spouse, say) looks identical to their spouse in every way, sounds exactly like them, but is not them, but an impostor, or double.
    My Mum did not seem to even recognise my dad, often thought he was her dad, and this is the difference.

    Strangely, when my dad went on to develop dementia, he would have spells where he thought he was not in his own house, but in another house, where everything -- wallpaper, pictures, carpets, furniture etc. was exactly the same as in his house! He would look around in amazement and say "How have they done that? Made everything the same as in my house?"

    Does your Mum accept that her husband looks like her husband but is an impostor, or does she simply not recognise him during these episodes?

    Edited to add -- the strategy the staff are using with your Mum often worked with my Mum too, ie Dad would leave the room or the house for a while, come back in with a cheery 'Hello love, it's me, Fred'. It didn't always work, and it took a long time for him to learn this was the way to go rather than 'Do you know me now?' which confused her no end.
  6. Bessieb

    Bessieb Registered User

    Jun 2, 2014
    Thank you jaymor and sleepless.

    It will be interesting to see if the CPN thinks it's Capgras or not or just progression of the disease.
    Mum talks about 'the other Brian' so seems to acknowledge that the person she thinks isn't my Dad is also called Brian. She says (or rather shouts) 'the other Brian is here' and if I try and gently suggest that there is only one Brian and he is her husband she says things like 'well he says he is but he isn't'. So I'm not sure. It could just be progression of dementia and she's losing recognition - and I know that this will happen in time. But for the vast majority of the time she knows exactly who he is and is normal with him. She also hasn't done this with anyone else yet- always knows who I am and my children are for example.
    I think the CH are right to be getting her assessed. The episodes are really distressing so I would like her on the radar of the CPN so the CH (and I) can have some advice on how to manage it. Particularly if it increases in frequency.
    Obviously I'm hoping that the episodes just stop and it all goes away...but then I've been hoping that about the Alzheimers for 3 years :(:(:(
  7. Onlyme

    Onlyme Registered User

    Apr 5, 2010
    #7 Onlyme, Jan 6, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2016
    Mum had VasDem and would say that she slept in the otherroom just like hers and that I (as a duplicate) was with her. She could go on for a full day this way then click back to just not knowing where she was or who I was.

    It would seem to be that various types of dementia visits those with Vas D over the course of the illness.

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