Either there were two mice fighting on Mary Ann’s bed this afternoon as she was preparing for a nap, there were bubbles rolling down the hallway as she sat in front of the television earlier today, and there was a cat on the floor two pews ahead of us when we sat down for the Evening Service at church tonight or Mary Ann has been hallucinating today.   Lots and lots of times throughout the day from the time she got up in the morning until she went to bed tonight she has picked up non-existent threads from the floor, pulled them off her fingers and my hand once also.   

I knew today would be a day of hallucinations and confusion.  For reasons  almost never obvious to us when it happens, last night was one of the nights she was not able to get to sleep.  She was restless – up and down for water, trips to the commode, to eat a snack, to straighten her bedding, to reposition in bed, all demanding my participation.  Needless to say, I am not at my best today either. 

It pretty much never fails that when she does not sleep at night, the next day she regularly crosses the nearby threshold from lucidity to confusion and hallucinating.  The confusion is especially difficult since in her case it is not always clear if she is confused or talking about something real.  She wanted me to get a fruit jar from the basement to send to our Daughter whom she said wanted a clothes pin (or didn’t know what one looked like).  I haven’t yet emailed my daughter to see if they had a conversation the last time we saw her that might explain this . 

I am assuming that this episode last night and today is part of our recuperation process after traveling a couple of times in the last three weeks.  It seems as if she is more vulnerable to bouts of confusion, long daytime naps and hallucinations after traveling.  It is not always clear, however, what causes the adventures into the  part of her thinking and seeing that is not within the bounds of reality. 

Mary Ann’s first major bout of confusion came almost two years ago.  She began to faint often one day and struggle to be clear where she was and what we were doing.  She moved into a non-responsive mode.  She could sit in front of the television, eat food and, with the usual assistance, manage to get bathroom duties accomplished.  It seemed as if she had left the planet mentally.  She did not recognize our Daughter (very painful for her) when she came by to bring Mary Ann something.  By about the fourth day of this, I became convinced that she had crossed a threshold permanently.  Then, without any hint as to why, on that Tuesday morning she woke up completely lucid and conversant without a hint of confusion.  She was able to remember some of the time during her seeming mental departure. 

Parkinson’s Disease Dementia and Lewy Body Dementia have the somewhat unique and insidious characteristic of moving dramatically and quickly between confusion and lucidity.  Some recent threads of posts on the Caregivers of spouses with Lewy Body Dementia have been about the challenge of dealing with the hallucinations, confusion, sometimes paranoia.  PDD and LBD folks live on a margin between reality and somewhere else.  They can move from one place to the other without warning, with no obvious triggering event.  This is different from the somewhat predictable Sundown Effect that comes with Alzheimer’s Disease. 

One thing that Caregivers of Loved Ones with PDD or LBD struggle with is that those who visit or talk with their Loved One may only see and hear the lucidity.  They wonder what the Caregiver is talking about when suggesting that their Loved One has Dementia.  That problem can be especially troublesome when other family members don’t believe there is a problem, while the primary Caregiver is going crazy trying to deal with their Loved One and make difficult decisions. 

A number of those who post in the LBD Spouses group have far more bizarre expressions of delusional behavior and hallucinations.  Some have dealt with Capras delusions in which the person is convinced that their Caregiver (even if a spouse or child) has been replaced by someone who looks just like them.  They will ask to see the other you.  Some who have dealt with that delusion suggest simply telling the person you will go and get the real you, then they leave the room and return announcing that you are now the real person.   There is another delusion called Reduplicative Paramnesia in which the person thinks that the room has been replaced by a duplicate that is not the real one.  One Caregiver said she asked her Loved One if it would be okay to go ahead and stay in this new room.  Some Caregivers in the LBD group, who live in what they call Lewy Land, have to put up with spouses saying horrible things to them, lashing out at them, being accused of all sorts of infidelities because of the paranoia. 

When I read those posts I am grateful that Mary Ann is lucid most of the time, other than on days like this.  The most disturbing hallucinations have been the times she has seen a man and two children, then a man, woman and two children, finally accusing me of protecting them by lying when I explained to her (in what seemed like a lucid moment) that they were not really there. 

The general wisdom is not to argue with the person who is hallucinating since they are actually seeing what we cannot see.  My seat of the pants approach to her hallucinations is to explain that while she can actually see what she is hallucinating, it is not there outside of her mind, in a way that I can do anything about.  When she sees the mice in bed, I run my hands over the spot to verify they are not there.  I wait for her to throw away the threads or have her hand them to me to throw away.  I offer to take her to the place where she sees whatever it is to be. 

While she has told me that the problem is not that she is hallucinating but that I don’t believe her, for the most part, we have been able to work through the hallucinations and the confusion without major problems.  Judging from the experience of others, the time of major problems with hallucinations and confusion and paranoia will come.   

As with most Caregivers, we live in a fragile world traveling on a very narrow road with steep precipices on both sides.  It is not for the faint of heart! 

The problem is that most of us in the Role of Caregiver are  faint of heart.  We are at times scared and frustrated and out of control.  We take each moment as it comes, dealing well sometimes and poorly other times with what we encounter in a particular moment.  We just make do, and in doing so we survive to live to deal with whatever the next moment brings. 

It is interesting to me what impact the accumulation of surviving those moment by moment encounters has on our sense of value and purpose.  Even as our coping skills seem to diminish, a quiet strength appears.  It grows little by little as we endure.  I have more respect than words can express for those in the LBD Spouses online group who have traveled much farther down the narrow road that we have.  They are truly heroes. 

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