Mum being "visited" by her mum

Discussion in 'I care for a person with dementia' started by Lavender45, Sep 16, 2015.

  1. Lavender45

    Lavender45 Registered User

    Jun 7, 2015

    Over the last two weeks mum has been asking endlessly for her mum who passed away 25 years ago, no amount of evasion will stop the endless round of where is she, has she gone to bed, has she gone home etc, but today she has moved on a bit and I really just wonder if anyone has dealt with similar and how?

    Mum has convinced herself that her mum is visiting her in spirit, she believes they are holding conversations, she says how well she looks and how she's telling her that she's fine where she is now, she's also saying that her sister (my auntie) is visiting too.

    Mum says she's its nice of them to come back so often, but I can't see it that way. Mum is getting wound up looking to see her mum in particular. I really don't know what to say to mum to help. I was a bit desperate and said if I see them I'll ask them to leave visiting for a while as its a bit upsetting, mum didn't like that idea. She wants them here. I appreciate that this is mum's reality, but I don't feel it is helping her stress levels. Has anyone any ideas as to how I can get mum past this I don't know what to call it, obsession maybe?
  2. Bod

    Bod Registered User

    Aug 30, 2013
    When faced with this from my father, I just said I hadn't seen his parents for years, so couldn't didn't know their plans.
    He seemed to accept this.
    Don't challenge your mums beliefs, they are true for her. Just try to work around them. If they are coming for a meal, don't lay another place, just have the cutlery ready in the drawer to be laid for when they actually arrive.
    Yes she will get upset, when they don't arrive, but she will soon get over it.
    You don't know why they didn't come, you have not seen them for years!

    This phase does pass, it just seems never ending.

  3. Lavender45

    Lavender45 Registered User

    Jun 7, 2015
    Hi Bod

    Thank you for telling me about how you coped with your dad looking for his parents.

    The problem is she truly believes they are here, sometimes in body, sometimes in some sort of spirit form, sitting on the sofa talking to her.

    Sadly I don't think saying I haven't seen them will pacify her because her mum in particular is here every day, sometimes she visits daily, other days she lives here with us, they have cups of tea etc together. Mum doesn't make 2 cups of tea, in fact she doesn't really make hot drinks anymore, but to her they have cups of tea and a natter every day. If I go out of the room she believes her mum goes with me, she gets annoyed when she doesn't come back into the room with me and worries about what I might have done to stop her coming back.
  4. Beate

    Beate Registered User

    May 21, 2014
    Hallucinations are not uncommon in dementia. There is a brillant book called "The Little Girl in the Radiator" by Martin Slevin. I think you might find it an interesting read.
  5. Lavender45

    Lavender45 Registered User

    Jun 7, 2015
    Thank you Beate

    I've just had a look and I'll download it to my kindle. I see a nice cuppa tea was the next kindle listing. I've read that, it was sad, but still humorous in places. I guess mum is hallucinating, its all so real to her, I'll have to learn to adjust, I really hope its a phase and passes quickly. Sadly her mum was the same towards the end, bless her she imagined she ran a fish and chip shop from her kitchen window. Made her happy.
  6. janey106

    janey106 Registered User

    Dec 10, 2013
    Hi Lavender45, like you my Mum is 76 and started hallucinating about her Mum two weeks ago. Sometimes she has just 'been having a chat with her whilst she was in the kitchen ironing', other times she has been 'talking to her all afternoon in her head'. We are following advice from fellow TPers about going along with it as much as we can but then it is like she has clarity and knows she has died (actually 31 years ago but Mum thinks it is recent). When it persists with endless questions, I suggest she 'makes a note of what you want to ask her or tell her' then get her to talk about life with her Mum as a youngster. It seems to comfort Mum and she is happy reminiscing. It's so hard but a lot of people have told me it is a phase.

    Unfortunately my Mum had a violent outburst this afternoon, bad enough to injure Dad, so we have had to move things on but she just wanted to 'go back home to Mum and Dad' where she remembered feeling safe. So sad. Hold on, you are not alone.
  7. Lavender45

    Lavender45 Registered User

    Jun 7, 2015
    Wow janey106 with the exception of the violent outburst your mum and mine sound so similar. My mum sometimes knows her mum I dead, on these occasions she believes her mum is returning in ghost form.

    The funny thing with my mum is she's not comfortable talking about the past, she says its none of my business, that the past is the past and that I'm being nosey if I try to get her to talk about it.

    I really hope your dad gets over the injury he's had today quickly. So hard for him and you and of course for your mum too. This is a cruel unfair disease! Sending you all a (((hug))) x
  8. marionq

    marionq Registered User

    Apr 24, 2013
    I have an odd twist on this situation. My husband never asks about his parents - he never mentions them. He does frequently ask me about my mother! My Mum died in 1997 and he admired her and was very fond of her but it is strange that he is expecting to see his mother in law and disappointed when I remind him that it is not possible.

    As one of a large family I think he got the kind of individual attention from my mother his own was unable to give him.
  9. Weary

    Weary Registered User

    Aug 1, 2014
    #9 Weary, Sep 17, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2015
    Talking of the book 'The little girl in the raditor ' - my mother in law was convinced there were people trapped living in her 2 arm chairs. No one could sit on them for fear of crushing them and she used to stuff food and porridge down them trying to feed them! No amount of trying would convince her otherwise, and she couldnt understand why we couldnt hear them. All we could do was try to distract her shen she got upset about it. She also used to think her long dead mum visited her but fortunately she lived in Scotland so when she asked for her we used to tell her she had gone home to look after the wee bairns (she had 9 brothers and sisters) and luckily she accepted that. Theres not much you can do really except say her mum has things to do and will be back later as theres no point in upsetting her trying to convince that shes dead!
  10. ellejay

    ellejay Registered User

    Jan 28, 2011
    My mum now knows her mum & dad come to see her ( or she's just got back from seeing them)

    Once when she asked me if I'd seen them, I said "Not for ages" & she called me a liar, because " I saw you, outside this window & you were talking & laughing with them"

    I now just make non committal noises.

    If mum spends time with them, I hope it eases her sadness .

    Lin x
  11. Grey Lad

    Grey Lad Registered User

    Sep 12, 2014
    North East Lincs
    Talking of the book 'The little girl in the raditor '

    Thanks for reminding me I'm part way through this on my Tablet. Must get back to it now ASAP. The irony is it is set in my home city and written by a guy who worked in the same Department as I used to. How strange is that?

    Oh the other irony Mauren said last night that no one had told her that her mum was dead. She passed over 30 years ago.
  12. Onlyme

    Onlyme Registered User

    Apr 5, 2010

    Mum wouldn't talk about the past to me and got very defensive and rude. She would tell me to mind my own business, why did I want to drag up the past etc. It took me a while to realise that she couldn't discuss the past as she had almost no recall of it.
  13. sue38

    sue38 Registered User

    Mar 6, 2007
    Wigan, Lancs
    Is there a possibility that your mum is confusing you with her mum? Do you look like your grandmother would have looked at your age?

    My mum is currently being assessed for dementia and, although she is quite rational 90% of the time, she is convinced that people come into her garden every night. This started as 'a man and his dog' but is now a whole group of people. Like others have said we just make non committal noises about it.
  14. The time was when I said I'd never lie to Dad. It changed. The point came at which if he thought his nursing home was a hotel, then it was a hotel. If he thought I was Mum, then that was who I was.

    But on the hallucinations, I want to offer a couple of analogies.

    Ok, let's compare with illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. If someone says they're seeing things or hearing things or believing things that to the rest of the world that aren't true, we've traditionally treated that as illness. More and more, people are exploring a different approach, just living with the hallucinations etc.

    Then let's look at what I'll call culturally normal hallucinations. If a very religious person who seems otherwise well says they've seen an angel or listened to God talking to them, we are as likely to see it as a spiritual experience as an illness. This is more and more seen as important in looking at whether hallucinations and other odd beliefs may not be mental illness, but may be culturally appropriate beliefs, varying from one culture to another.

    Likewise, in many places, to think you can see or hear a loved one that's recently died is seen as anything from a temporary symptom of bereavement to a long-term normality. If we hear our friend, who's just been widowed, talking to her husband, do we worry very much whether she believes he's there or whether she's just imagining what she'd say if he were there?

    And if she has some sort of spiritualist views, even if we view such beliefs with skepticism, we may still accept that they're normal for some people.

    So if we treat someone with dementia in the way we would with those people whose odd beliefs and apparent hallucinations appear to us to be culturally normal whether just for them or for us as well, it can be easier to deal with them.

    If a good friend said their guardian angel were walking with them when they went out of the house, would we worry about whether guardian angels existed, or would we worry more whether they were relying on their guardian angel to the extent that they did not take care when crossing the road, and maybe offer some words of caution?

    Therefore, I'd say speak to a person with dementia who believes things that we don't as if talking to someone who has a cultural or spiritual belief system we don't.

    So Mum is coming for tea. Except she doesn't, Mum's dead. Is that actually the problem, or is the key problem when Mum doesn't turn up? Does saying that Mum's dead solve the problem? If not, I suggest trying comments like "She's always been busy, hasn't she? Oh well, that's more cake for us to share." Whether you go so far as lying or whether you just give diplomat's answers is up to you.

    If the person with dementia is up to it, maybe get them to write a message or dictate one. Again, it can be done in a way that's open as to whether it's a 'real' letter or the sort you write to someone who isn't there as a form of closure.

    Also, if Mum is supposedly sitting there with the person with dementia, then maybe the question is not whether Mum is real but whether they are disturbing their daughter. If they're disturbing them, maybe a general comment of 'do you mind if I sit here?' aimed sort of vaguely near the middle of the settee, followed by switching the radio or television on, can drown out Mum. Who cares whether she's real, she's been ousted from the conversation.

    Like I say, whether you lie or not is up to you, but you can very often speak and behave in a way that makes the reality or otherwise of the intrusive person/hallucination irrelevant.

    I hope this is an approach that will help some people on here, and if not, what's been lost by trying?
  15. AlsoConfused

    AlsoConfused Registered User

    Sep 17, 2010
    Sometimes medication can be responsible for the hallucinations - and tweaking the medication stops them being troubling (if that's what they are).

    I think Mum had to go on a reduced Aricept dose because of her hallucinations.
  16. sleepless

    sleepless Registered User

    Feb 19, 2010
    The Sweet North
    My husband went through a phase of seeing animals,vehicles, children etc. but always through the windows, out in the garden, never indoors. When he was prescribed Memantine, this stopped.

    When my he refers to his deceased parents and brothers as though they were still alive I go along with it, even chat about them as he is obviously comfortable with it.

    Sometimes he says things like 'Is that (deceased loved one) across the garden there?' and I say something like 'I'm not sure, your eyesight is better than mine' and he never pursues the matter.

    But I will look in the direction he is looking and smile, and (only momentarily) think 'What if? What if dementia unlocks something in the brain that is normally suppressed?'
    Then I pull myself together, but can't resist another look in the direction he was looking, and another smile, just in case.
  17. elizabet

    elizabet Registered User

    Mar 26, 2013
    My Mum started to say that her brother had not been in to see her and also her Mum and Dad- all had passed away many years ago. I used to go along with her, saying I expect they are busy working today, they'll probably come tomorrow. or something similar. It was fascinating that she never once mentioned or referred to Norman her husband of 47 years. On one occasion she started to ask me if I liked my job and did I have children and started talking about her daughter I think she thought I was one of the care assistants for a short time - then she suddenly remembered that I was her daughter. Dementia is such a challenging condition and I learnt so much over the short time I cared for my mum before she entered a care home.
  18. Shedrech

    Shedrech Volunteer Moderator

    Dec 15, 2012
    #18 Shedrech, Sep 18, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2015
    Elizabet, I've picked up on your comment about your mum not mentioning your dad.
    Dad is going through a phase (I hope) of desperately wanting to go home, seeming to be back as a lad. At first I thought he meant to my mum, his wife (who died several years ago) but when I said something about 'mum' meaning his wife, I realised he was talking about his mum and dad and thought they were still alive and he was living with them and so they would be worried about where he was, and why were 'they' keeping him here (in the CH). He very rarely mentions his wife to anyone, even though there are photos of her in his room. They were married nearly 50 years and I know he was very happy with her. He recognises me as his daughter, so far, and asks the staff to get me, by name, when he's agitated - he doesn't call for her. It upset me, at first, to think he'd forgotten her, but I'm not sure he has. Maybe his mind is shielding him from a grief which was scorching at first and too heart-breaking to return to.
    I like your 'what if' Sleepless - and I'll remember your 'eyesight problem' in case I ever need such a kind response.
    I guess this kind of seeing is fine if it brings comfort - but when it leads to howling despair, there's no comforting; horrible condition.
  19. Lavender45

    Lavender45 Registered User

    Jun 7, 2015
    Hello everyone

    Thank you for all your insights into how I need to approach mum's hallucinations. You've all been really helpful.

    Today mum seems more confused than ever. Urine test didn't show a UTI, but now she doesn't recognise our house as home. Home is in Water Street. I know mum has never lived in a Water Street, I'm sure it exists, but don't know where. Mum is convinced her garden plants are in Water Street, even though she can see the garden and has been outside to look. She tells me the "big ladders" are in the other house, so we must go back. Oh and she has no house keys as her mum took them, even though she can see them in her handbag. She's so jumbled up!

    We are doing ok at the moment, but only just. I'm struggling to keep up with the speed of the changes in mum, 12 months ago she was forgetful, I naively thought it would be a slow decline! I can only hope this speedy decline tails off because to me we are heading along at breakneck speed.
  20. Sunflowers

    Sunflowers Registered User

    Jun 11, 2013
    I can highly recommend The Little Girl in the Radiator too. It's the best book I've read about the subject. It's real, heartwarming, funny and sad. It might be of interest to you because Rose, the author's mother who has Alzheimer's, talks to a girl she thinks is trapped in the radiator. When she moves to a care home the child moves with her. It's interesting how her family dealt with it.

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