I know hallucinations are common territory to different forms of dementia. It’s a common mistake to believe that hallucinations only inflict those with Lewey Body or Alzheimer’s. The truth is anyone who suffers from any form of dementia is at risk to feel their mind split from reality. What is consistent is that each form dementia tends to manifest hallucinations differently for each dementia.
This is my personal story of hallucinations. It is my desire to help loved ones and caregivers see the world of their LO from the inside out of what’s going on inside of their demented brain. I can only do this by writing about my own dementia.
I’m no stranger to hallucinations. If you’ve read any of my other reflections you know I’m bipolar. So I’ve been on anti-psychotics for years. But lately, about six months ago, when I could tell my dementia progressing I could also see an increase in the hallucinations.
If you have loved one who experience hallucinations try to imagine what they are feeling. The terror. The confusion. The lost feeling. Helplessness. What they need is security and redirection, comfort.
This is a story of one hallucination in particular that refuses leave me. One that is reoccurring.
This is one account of a repetitive hallucination I may encounter during the night as a complication of my insomnia. He is a man that hides in my closet whom I refer to as the boogeyman. Even though the man in the closet, the boogeyman is the scariest persona I encounter in my bedroom, or anywhere, at night in the dark it is the one I fear the most. I know the boogeyman isn’t real and has no real physical power over me. Others have come and gone, but not the boogeyman. It’s as if he is here to stay. The boogeyman is also the only hallucination to look at me directly in the face as if with intent. I’ve interacted with other persons of hallucinations but I couldn’t remember their faces or even know if I looked at their face. But the boogeyman will open the closet door just enough to be able to send an evil stare right at me. That’s how I know his eyes are yellowish. The boogeyman’s hallucinations are so powerful they are also auditory. Sometimes with the door closed noises will come from the closest. Bangs. Scratches on the door. I know they are not real. But combine all these together and it’s hard to control that fear. It’s hard to dismiss it all. The boogeyman makes it seem personal.
I don’t sleep very well. I never have. So being up late at night in my room in the dark or lying in bed is typical for me. Sometimes I put my headphones on but mostly I use the time for quiet time. It’s in those times that while laying in bed or sitting at my desk I would hear the turn of the closet doorknob followed by the creek of the door. Instantly I knew what it is. Instantly my heart would race while blood rush to my head. Terror engulfs me. This thing wasn’t real and I knew it every time but knowing it didn’t make it go away. The option was to look or ignore it. It had never come out of the closet before and I never wanted it to. If you could ever fathom a being released from the depths of hell this was it. This was pure evil that makes the howling sound of a dying animal. It is the epitome of ugly. And it’s noise pierces my ears like ice picks. My fear of not looking is that if I don’t maybe it will wander beyond the door and into the room. It’s always seemed to make its presence known, its power, and then leave. But not until it stabbed me with its own dark yellowish eyes. All I can do is freeze wherever I am and wait until it retreats back into the dark closet. I never know what it does just like I never know where it comes from in the closet once it gets back in but it bangs the walls as if its crawling back into a hiding place. The fear has not left. I know it’s not real but it has happened before and I know it will happen again. Maybe that is why the fear is so unconquerable. All I can do is wait.
Hallucinations requires medical attention. But the most powerful and affective treatment for hallucination is compassion and patience along with understanding. It’s often misunderstood that those with dementia will sometimes resist because of a hallucination. I will refuse to go to bed until my wife shuts the closet door. I will refuse to go into the closet in the middle of the night once the door is shut. This is only one example of how hallucinations can hinder progress for people with dementia. Hallucinations are terrifying, confusing, some are simple distractions that make any confusion worse, some are pure evil looking for a life to destroy. Hallucinations make big impacts on how someone with dementia functions.