Tag Archives: delusions

Dementia and Dreams

Certain kinds of dementia are linked to active dreaming. In her current stage of dementia, my mom dreams a lot. Sometimes it’s hard to know if she’s truly asleep, or just in some kind of altered state. At night, she’ll wave her hands and utters sounds that give you the impression she’s talking with someone while she dreams. I wish I could know what she’s seeing.

Dementia and Dreams

Mom’s sleep behavior makes me very curious. Her original diagnosis did not focus on Lewy Body dementia. But people with this type of dementia dream in motion, something Mom now does all the time. She reaches her hands high in the air as if she’s about to grab something. Her fingers wiggle around like she’s casting a spell or inviting someone to come closer. It’s a mysterious gesture that makes you want to know what’s going on in her mind.

The Alzheimer’s Association says that in “about 50 percent of cases of Dementia with Lewy Bodies, people experience something called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep disorder. ” Most of us experience our dreams while we are in the REM stage of sleep. If we are enjoying normal REM sleep, the movement of our body is blocked and we don’t physically act our our dreams. With Lewy Bodies dementia, however, people act out their dreams with vivid movements that can even turn violent in some cases.

My mom is not violent and has never done anything worse than pinch me — which can happen when she has muscle spasms. But one night last week I saw my mother reaching up from her bed with one hand so she could slap her other wrist which was extended high in the air. She hit herself five or six times and it was loud enough for me to hear it in another room.

I really do wonder what my mom dreams about at this unusual stage of her life.  If I asked her to slap one hand with the other when she was awake, she wouldn’t have the coordination to do it. Does that mean she can control her body better while she’s asleep? Do her memories float back to her when her conscious mind sleeps? Do her dreams include wishes like getting married or falling in love — or do they focus on conflicts?

I entertain myself coming up with ideas about what she might be seeing. Perhaps she’s dreaming that one day she’ll grow up and have a daughter. That dream is the one most likely to come true.

Eyes, sight, perception, dementia

Eyes are the main portal that ushers the wide world into our minds. Healthy eyes help us see the people and things that fill our lives with love, beauty, hurdles, and despair. But to perceive those things accurately, the brain must be a reliable interpreter. Dementia makes that impossible.

Fall Foliage

Between the Pond and the Woods

My mother has had eye problems for years. The first time she showed signs of faulty vision we were walking in the back yard. Leaves had fallen from a big elm at the end of the lawn. She pointed at them and asked, “What are those pink things?” Her comment alarmed me because in those days she could still function at a pretty high level. What she noticed on the ground was not pink — and she’d lived in Pennsylvania her whole life, raking countless piles of autumn leaves. She was showing the first signs of agnosia, a condition of not being able to name or recognize a common object. The condition of a caregiver witnessing this for the first time is called panic!

Seven years have since passed and we don’t get upset when Mom can’t explain what she sees. In addition to the agnosia, she now gets a chronic infection in her eyes from keeping them closed too much. When she is not truly engaged in an activity, she shifts into neutral and lets her lids drop. Closing the eyes prevents tears from cleaning them, which can result in dacryostenosis.

Apart from the infection, which we treat with a prescription ointment, Mom often comes up with wild notions of what she’s looking at. After hearing her talk a lot about “the children over there”, my sister finally figured out that Mom was looking at electrical outlets — two holes that looked like eyes resting over one hole for a nose or mouth. These are “the children” that visit Mom’s room. We thought she was seeing ghosts! A few days ago, Mom looked at the photo of the fall foliage posted above. She couldn’t find any trees or leaves there. For her it was a picture of “a rich man with lots of money.”

So hang on.  If you can get yourself past the panic stage, some of these things are truly hilarious!