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Thursday, September 1, 2016
My Mother-in-Law has dementia. She is 97 years old. She "worries" about her babies. She wants to go and get them, even though we have told her they are being well taken care of. We do not know the best way to handle this or what to tell her. She gets very angry when we will not bring the babies back to her and will not take her to get them (these babies are supposed to be her kids, we think). Any suggestions? What do we tell her or do?
It is common for persons with dementia to experience delusions where they have thoughts that are fixed false beliefs. It is also common for the person to talk about the past, because often the memories stored in their long-term memory bank are more deeply stored in the brain and easier to recall. This being said, it is not easy for family & caregivers to know how to deal with these behaviors.
Assuring mom that the babies are safe is a good strategy or telling her you will go check on them later may also be helpful. How about using a doll that she can carry or are there great-grandchildren in the area that could visit her on a regular basis? Sometimes watching a children's TV show or movie satisfies their delusion.
Many women with dementia have delusions regarding children. Sometimes just having them spend time around children can help, as they often enjoy watching the kids play or interact. We have a local adult daycare center that also has a child care center on the same property, so every day the older adults can see and maybe interact with the children in a supervised setting. It's a great idea and everyone loves it.
If none of these opportunities are available and you feel that the strategies tried are not working, there are medications that can be helpful with delusional behaviors and the anger or worry that may accompany these thoughts. The anti-psychotic drugs in low doses and the antidepressant drugs can help reduce the frequency and intensity of these behaviors. If medications need to be considered, I would advise talking to mom's physician.
If there is an Alzheimer's Association family support group in your area, that would be a good resource for the family to check out and possibly gain support from others going through similar situations. Good Luck.
Rebecca A Davis, RN, LISW
Clinical Research Nurse of Neurology
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University