Tag Archives: hallucinations

Landmines for dementia patients

Until you spend a good deal of time with a dementia patient, you can easily overlook potential triggers that will create an explosion of confusion, fear and anger in certain people with dementia.

Take for instance, the simple act of getting on and riding in an elevator. I’ve heard that a way to keep dementia patients from crossing a door’s threshold is by putting a black strip of tape on the floor, or painting a black strip on the floor. Dementia patients see this as a black void and are afraid they will fall into it. I think this is what Dad experienced as we ventured towards the elevator. As we coaxed him to join us in the elevator, he jumped back as if he had been shocked. We finally were able to get him safely in the elevator, and had him hang on to the railing at the back for support. He was very unsteady and I could feel his anxiety level rise.

Fortunately, we only had to go a few floors up so the frightening incident for Dad didn’t last very long. He forgot it as soon as he exited the elevator. The trip back down was uneventful. But I remember that “scared out of your wits” gleam in Dad’s eye. It’s not something you ever want to see on a loved one’s face, but with dementia, it becomes an expression that one sees all too often.

What the experience has taught me is to be even more aware of my surroundings, and other’s special needs. What may seem like a routine, mundane task for me may be a journey of terror for someone else.

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Alzheimer’s goggles

With the Japanese “diet goggles” being in the news this week, and reading a touching blog post about another dementia patient who’s experiencing visual disturbances, I couldn’t help but think about my Dad. I’ve written before about the strange things he would see as his dementia progressed, from black dogs to babies in the woods behind my parents’ house.

It makes me wonder, what do Alzheimer’s patients really see? My dad could look straight through my mom and ask where she was in the next breath. What did he really see? Did he forget that quickly, or did he see something else in place of my mom? He would think I was on one side of the room when I was on the other. When he looked at me, what did he actually see?

It’s almost like some kind of Halloween gag that never ends. A cruel virtual reality that’s created by the brain, not by technology.

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