When it’s hard to “embrace someone’s reality”


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A reader wrote in:

Hi, my husband has Parkinson’s Dementia diagnosed 6 months ago and recently has started to have hallucinations. I tell the people he sees at night to leave the house and not to come back and this usually works. However he now asks how they got into the house and I don’t know how to answer that question. He says we should call the police beause the house isn’t secure if these people can get in. Please could you advise. Thank you.

This inspired me to write a longer post, so here it is! I applaud you for doing what you are doing thus far: telling the people to “go away” and embracing his reality. Even when the going gets tough, you’re doing the right thing: agreeing with his reality and engaging in it. Instead of just telling him “that the people aren’t there,” you’re dealing with his fear in his reality. So, first, good job.

On to your question! What do you do now, that he’s needing more information? The first thing I would want to know is this: how does he THINK they got into the house? I would actually ask him this. Act as though you are curious, and trying to solve it with him. “I don’t know, how do you think that they got in?” That way, you know what to solve. So, if he says, “the door,” then you know to pay more attention to “keeping the door locked” or “getting an alarm system.” (Which, really, you could actually do.) 

If he thinks they got in via the chimney, or something, that’s a different issue. i would first want to know where he thinks the problem is, and then do that. You’re already doing a great job of embracing his reality. His reality has shifted slightly, so let’s figure out where it is.

Side note: ensure that, by talking to a physician, none of his medications are increasing the severity of his hallucinations. 

Hope this helps!

(Anyone is welcome to write in a question, but if your question is too darn long, or complicated, I will ask that you please set up a phone call with me.)

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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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