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Reply with quote  #1 
My mother is 88. She lives in her own home by herself and is about 85 miles away. I am an only child.

It has been my goal to keep her in this situation as long as she can care for herself. In general she does well. She fixes her own meals, takes her medications, and has good hygiene.

Her overall health is good. She does take medications for high blood pressure, arthritis, circulation, thyroid, heart, antacid, gout medication and elavil at night. Her hearing is not good and she does have macular degeneration which makes it very difficult for her to read.

While her memory fails her at times, she is alert and can carry on intelligent conversations. I call her every day and visit her once a week to take her shopping, to doctors appointments, etc.

Now for the problem:
Over the past 9 months or so, she has reported increasing incidence of hallucinatory episodes. At first, she tended to head music (opera usually) late at night. Then she started reporting seeing her sister (who passed 2 years ago) walking in the house late at night). Next, she heard people working on the house during the day -- no one was working on the house. More recently, she has made supper for my father (who passed 12 years ago) and made lunch for people she thought was working on the house.

We visited her physician, and he prescribed Namenda which she has been phasing into during the past 3 weeks. She is now complaining about feeling "out of it" for about 4 hours after taking the morning dosage. She has not reported any hallucinatory incidents -- until today.

Today she says that 2 of her neighbors and their daughter enter the house through a bedroom window, and that they were in the bedroom talking. She said that she actually say them and swears that they were there. She told them to get out of the house and not come back. She said that they then talked a little and then left (supposedly through the bedroom window). This was in late afternoon -- most of these incidents have occurred during daytime hours.

I am at wits end. When she relates these experiences to me either in person or on the phone, I can feel my blood pressure and heart rate increasing. I get very shaky (I already have tremors). I don't know what to do. She seems alright with the exception of these incidents. I know she is lonely but neighbors call her and stop in the see her. She refuses to have the TV or radio on during the day.

She could afford assisted living for only maybe 6 months. My wife wants her to move in with us, but, in the past, my wife has lacked patience for her after just 3-5 days. And I don't know if I could live with her either. Also, we already have my wife's father (who has Alzheimer’s) living with us (for 3 months now) and that is really straining our relationship.

My wife is retired but I have another 8 years to work a very demanding 60 hour per week job.

If anyone has any suggestions, thoughts or reactions, I would appreciate it.

Thank you.

Reply with quote  #2 
Hi Tom,

Welcome to The Support Group at Aging Parents and Elder Care. Your situation sounds like it must be awfully hard especially when it's so very hard telling someone that something is not there when they truly believe it is. I can certainly empathize with your situation but I hesitate in offering an opinion because I am not a doctor, however I have seen this many times before. From my experience it has been one of two things. Either it is a symptom of an undetected physiological problem or it is a side effect of combining too many or the wrong medications. More often than not it is the latter. My suggestion would be to contact a Geriatric MD (specialist) to initially review her meds and then move forward from that point. They are not strangers to this type of symptom. As a matter of fact it is more common than you would probably think. Please let us know how it goes.
Reply with quote  #3 
I just got on looking for a support group and saw your post about hallucinations. I would suggest having your mother checked over to make sure she has no minor infections because they can cause this in the elderly. I have my 87 yr old dad full time and he has these episodes. He also suffers from disorientaion and short term memory loss. When he matter of factly mentions someone being in his bathroom or seeing a fire in the closet, I get chills and my blood pressure also goes up. I try to stay calm and have learned to let him think he sees or hears it. He gets angry when I tell him it's not real. He sees things more when he's ill, a respritory or urinary tract infection really makes it worse. I just want to run away sometimes when he says, get that cat off the stove or that dog is making me cough. (we have no pets) Hey, this is a good place to vent.
Reply with quote  #4 

I am also not a doctor but do a web search on Charles Bonnet Syndrome.

Carol Bursack
Reply with quote  #5 
Hi Tom,
My mother-in-law would introduce me to the "kids" that were with her, when I visited. She was paranoid about anything beyond her door or her walls. She talked to her dead husband. She saw and heard things all the time - until she entered a nursing home. Granted, this isn't how most people react to such a change, but I think she was so lonely (even though I visited every day) and afraid, that she had totally withdrawn into her mind. When she walked into the nursing home ( a very good facility) she felt safe, and she got back several years of her life. It was amazing. She was open and friendly and didn't have these strangers in her mind all the time. You mentioned assisted living. Surely some arrangements can be made. I'd get legal advice and see how her money can be handled. If your mother and your father-in-law with Alzheimer's are both living with you and your wife, your marriage is sure to suffer. It's too much for anyone. In assisted living, your mother would have attention and diversion and would likely get better. If she does need medication, she have it monitored. When her money is gone, she would go on some kind of medicaid. I think you need to check with your state or county and see what can be done. Best of luck, Carol
toni r
Reply with quote  #6 

 My mom is 90 years old and still writes her own checks out and lives in a senior apartment building, she took a fall in december and has been under Dr.s care since then using a cane and therapy.  She doesn't sleep well and I know she is not used to being cooped up and not with her friends. A few weeks ago she told me she suddenly wakes up and sees two ladies by her bed, the other nite it was a doll near her bed and a man's backto her, she says she blinks and they are gone.  She displays no other signs of senility and I am wondering is this harmless or is it the beginning of something. Please I would like to hear from anyone who has a similiar case.  thanks

Reply with quote  #7 
Please have her medication checked. I am not saying that the other medical conditions mentioned previously can be ruled out but this is one first step to consider as it helped my 89 year old grandma.
My grandmother used to have hallucinations and my mother found her rolled in the bathroom rug one morning and she kept insisting people were in her house. My mother researched her medications as the doctors kept denying any correlation to these episodes and my grandmothers meds and she found that improper doses of one or more of her meds were creating the problem! Get your parent's consent to review the meds she is taking, with her doctor. You may find out she is taking something she should no longer be taking or her doses need to be adjusted. Doctors will listen, you just have to push them and sometimes do your own research.
Reply with quote  #8 

My 83 year old mother began "seeing" people about 4 months ago. She had a bad urinary tract infection in January, as well as a history of those infections. She's on a constant low dose antibiotic and the nursing home said that she doesn't seem to have an infection at the present time, and she appears properly hydrated. I visit her a few times a week and she always has a story about the night visitors (pirate with a knife was first, a woman standing, a child sitting at the foot of her bed, a woman sitting,various men, an alligator, a dog, each of my sons, and me - you get the idea). Some are just there and others are actually doing something (standing on scaffolding outside her window and looking in, sticking out their tongue, coming out of her bathroom).

She said that last night she had 4 visitors - a woman, later a little girl in a white dress, and two men running into her room and then running out again. Each "sighting" either disappeared or left the room when she rang for a nurse.  She had been uncomfortable with the visions, but now she's frightened that they will hurt her, or steal something, or both. Last night and today she was crying about the visions. 

Otherwise she is pretty sharp during conversations and seems to have relatively good short and long term memory.  Her vision has been worsening - particularly after a retinology treatment 11 months ago. She takes medicine for blood pressure, diabetes, a blood thinnner, and many more  pills that the doctor has evaluated and that doesn't seem to explain why she suddenly started seeing things. Eight days ago I think she started an anti-psychotic medication.

She thinks that some of her visitors could be dreams, but she sincerely thinks that some others are real.  Yhe nursing home has been supportive and she has seen a psychiatrist a couple of times - he believes the visions will eventually go away, but she has become very upset and doesn't want to wait, and doesn't want to sleep at night.

Sue Howes
Reply with quote  #9 

You have no idea, all of you, just how reassured I feel reading your messages.  I live in England btw. My mother is nearly 92 and last week started seeing a person in her living room and kitchen. She kept trying to feed him.  Today I talked with her and there are now several more people who have eaten the biscuits she put ou.  She was so depressed and confused today. My sister is arriving from the States on Wednesday and I am sincerely hoping the fact that being there will help Mum's loneliness. She is seeing the doctor on Thursday and we are all hoping it is UTI and she will soon be back to her old self. I have been feeling very scared, especially when today she forgot I was on the phone and I could hear her walking round her flat calling to me.


Hope all of your loved ones are protected and you too.

Reply with quote  #10 



I burst into tears when I read your email.  I'm an only child and am in the EXACT same place with my 89 year old mother.  In fact she was just admitted today to a medical hospital after spending the last week in an acute mental health care facility.   I will be spending the weekend visiting her there.


Prior to last Thursday, she was an independent senior living alone in her home of the last 57 years.  Then, her world came crashing down.   I live about 80 miles from her.  I called her every day to make sure she was OK.   She always sounded fine on the phone.  I would spend weekends with her.   Everything was fine.


She, too, heard music at the beginning.   Honestly, I dismissed it because, the kids next door play the music of today.   Now, the guilt is overwhelming.  


I, too, start to shake at times during the day because seeing her in the condition she is in at the moment is too much to bear.  This is unbelievable.  I was thinking today that I cannot possibly be the only one in this situation.   There MUST be someone else going through this.  Someone who is an only child.  Someone who had a loving, positive relationship with a parent.   


Unfortunately, my home email is down, so I'm writing this from work.   I would very much like to continue speaking with you about your situation, so please figure out a way we can speak or email each other off line from his message board.   It may do both of us some good.


The doctor gave me some sound advice this past Wednesday.   "You have to take care of yourself during this trying time.  The medical teams will take care of your mother."





Reply with quote  #11 

I just had to hospitalize my mother for infected cellulitis, an eye infection (conjuctivitis) and a urinary tract infection (UTI). The moment she got there, the hospital also put her on a different painkiller!! The next day she was telling me about all the horrible things that happened there all night. She saw homeless people camping in the halls, children banging drums, butterflies. She was sexually violated. She was also put on trial in front of a jury and no one would tell her why. It went on and on.


The staff told me that the hallucenations were probably brought on by her UTI. They said they see it in elderly women all the time.  That, and the fact that my mother is a highly anxious person with lots of fear that she keeps inside her and it comes out in paranoid delusions. The last time she was hospitalized (4 years ago) she did the same thing, only worse, because she could still walk. The hospital called me at 8pm one night to come down and calm her. She was running down the halls telling everyone that the doctors were trying to kill her. Then later, in rehab, she heard her next door neighbor being murdered. The tales went on like this for the entire time she was hospitalized. Then she stopped telling us anything because she didn't like it when we told her that these things were not really happening.


It is tough. They WILL NOT believe you when you tell them that these visions are not real. And soon they lose trust in you. But you can't feed thier delusion by agreeing with them, either. The best thing to do is try to stay neutral. Tell them you will talk to someone about this business and then tell them that you asked around and no one else has seen these 'incidents". Then just dismiss it. Last time, my mother finally stopped believing her (most of ) hallucenations but it was at least a month after she came home. But she has always been afraid of this hospital. No matter whether they are real visions or not, it is very frightening to them.


Reply with quote  #12 
My father is 83 years old.  A couple of years ago he went into the hospital for a vascular bypass in his leg.  Of course, because it was a surgical procedure, they treated him with antibiotics.  Reading all of your emails horrified me because the very same hallucinations are exactly what he experienced, in the hospital and even once he got home (he has lived with me for the past 9 years).  He would tell of children throwing balls down the hall and angels sitting on the foot of his bed.  What we found out will amaze you all.  Evidently, the antibiotics in an elderly person will cause the ammonia level in his system to increase dramatically, and that is what causes the hallucinations.  Once the doctors realized what was happening, they started treating him with a liquid medication that would quickly wash the ammonia out of his system.  Since my dad is a diabetic and on dialysis, his doctor recently told us that he should only be taking an antibiotic every other day.  This last time he was on an antibiotic for a stomach infection, the doctor cut his dosage to half.  The halluncinations were a lot less severe.  It gave me chills to read all of your emails in that the hallucinations began shortly after an infection.  Please don't delay in getting this checked out.  Only then will you see your aging parent return to their true self.  Hope this helps.  Sign me...been through it all.
r davis
Reply with quote  #13 
This is so good to know. My mother-in-law thinks she has visitors frequently and now she says she always hears "The Star-Spangled Banner" in her head! I know she hasn't any infections presently, but we are concerned that some of her medications are to blame for the "visitors" and we will get a geriatric doc to check the out for us to see which one might be the culprit.
Reply with quote  #14 

This all sounds so familiar, however my mother tends not to have hallucinations very frequently and when she does they are generally about my father who has been deceased for the past 9 years.  My biggest challenge with my mother is her criticism and wanting me to have no other activities other than sitting with her. (And I do literally mean sitting). I am a single woman of 49 years of age, my daughter is married and living in another city.  I have a younger brother who also lives close by.


Mother had bypass surgery 8 1/2 years ago, during her surgery she had a slight stroke that primarily affected her left leg mobility, although the stroke was never officially confirmed, it was stated that she "probably did have one" by the surgeon that performed the surgery.


She had difficulty walking so they enterered into physical rehab, during which she was not made to move around enough for the first three days and ended up with a leg clot that resulted in pulmonary embolism..back in ICU..blood transfusions...etc., the end result was a full month in the hospital, during which I stayed with her.  After being released from the hospital, I "moved in" and stayed for about 6-8 weeks. (Mistakingly leaving my 17 year old daughter with friends and taking care of my house across town ... but that's another story). 


She was recovering nicely and was able to get back out, drive, visit friends, etc. so I moved back home.  Shortly after, about 6 weeks later, she started having problems again, this time it was with her stomach and GERD/Reflux.  I spent several weeks taking her to different doctors, finally ending up in the hospital. They located a small ulcer. She remained on ulcer treatment (all of the pills made her sick so we had to try several) for over 2 years, during which time if she had a bad bout, I would have to go stay with her for a day or two to help with meds. 


I usually visited her at least 2 times a week if I wasn't staying with her for some reason.  My brother, during the first 5 years of this activity, saw my mother only occassionaly.  Holidays like Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day and maybe two other times during the year. I then got married (since divorced) and my mother moved out of the condo in the town where I lived and back into a house in the town where my brother lives (less than an hour away).  Since that time, my brother has checked on her a couple of times a week, I call her every day and see her every Sunday.


Just recently, she has begun to decline, she no longer drives, will not get out of the bed unless I help her and take her out in a wheelchair on Sunday's.  Last week she fell, nothing serious resulted from the fall, a few scrapes and bruises, but no broken bones.  She is now saying that I have neglected her and that my brother is the only one that really makes an effort to take care of her.  That "you don't have anyone so you should be over here with me and taking care of your mother". (By the way my brother is also alone/divorced about 2 years ago after a 20 year marriage).  She is angry, bitter and often says hateful things to me.  It hurts me to the point that when I leave I simply cry.  I can't possibly spend more time with her when she rants this way - it makes it too hard on both of us.  She has convinced my brother that I don't do enough for her so he is on me too!  I have a full time job, the only time I go out is on Friday nights with friends.  I usually stay home on Saturdays to relax (and if I did go anywhere I would get b**ched at for spending time with someone that wasn't family!) Sunday...every Sunday like clockwork, I go to my mothers, we watch a movie, or I get her dressed and take her out somewhere to lunch and recently too her to visit her greatgrandchild (my granddaughter) - mainly because she was angry with me that I didn't ask her to go over there when they invited me for dinner one night and said that I AND my daughter were thoughtless.


Don't get me wrong... I love my mother and do not want her to be in pain or lonely, but I really don't know what to do at this point.  If I spend more time with still would not be enough. We have made arrangements for the Home Instead service twice weekly and thought that it would help.  But anytime it is a weekend, she is always worse and seems angry and jealous of any activity (my brother goes out quite a bit more and usually spends his weekends on the river - which I encourage by the way!) that either of us have - even if it is me staying at home and doing my laundry.  What can I possibly do to help her?


Any suggestions?

Reply with quote  #15 


It sounds like you are doing as much as you can while still coping emotionally with an ungrateful mother. I would try to ignore all her accusations and turn the table on her once in a while. If you tell her that you are getting tired of her demanding and ungrateful behavior and that you need a vacation before you quit entirely, she might pull back her punches. After all, she needs you; not the other way around.  Sometimes old people become more and more angry as they lose their independence, and instead of  understanding that you are helping all you can , they expect even more.. while at the same time getting angry at their condition and taking it out on the only one around.. the caretaker. This is called PANIC and DESPERATION. You have heard of the drowning person who fights and kicks the person who is saving them. I think it's the same thing.


Try not to take things personally. If your brother gives you any guff, tell him he can do it alone for a couple of months. You will see how much he cares. It's easy to criticize others until you spend time in their shoes.


Keep venting on this site and keep looking at what others are doing to cope with their parents. Also, start checking into Assisted Living and/or nursing homes. Look for places that take medicaid patients, because even if she has money to pay for her care for a year or two, some places will ship them out after they run out of money.


But mostly, keep your chin up and tell yourself that you are doing the best you can... and that's all that matters.  Like most us, usually something happens that pushes us to make the final decision of how much we are willing to do (or not). 


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