There was a time, when my mom still lived independently, when she would regale me with tales of her hallucinations (likely brought on by the Alzheimer’s drug Aricept).
“Every night there are people singing Christmas carols outside my window,” she said. She could see them as she was falling asleep, even though her cherry headboard blocked her view of the window when she was lying in bed.
“They’re happy and kind of fat, and they wave at me as they pass by.”
While describing what she had for dinner during one of our nightly phone calls, she stopped mid-sentence.
“Oh, no,” she said, “you’re not going to show me that, are you?”
“Uh, what mom?”
“That girl there…. she’s pulling up her skirt and showing her panties. Ooh, ooh, ooh, now she’s taking her panties off!”
“Is everything ok, mom?”
“It’s just so weird … hee, hee, hee!”
“So, you really see this person, mom?”
“Yes, she’s right in front of me.”
I didn’t know what to say. Her brain seemed to be populating itself with so many strange things.
It wasn’t only hallucinations brought on by Aricept (which she eventually stopped taking). She also seemed to have an ever-present sense of deja-vu, where every new experience was something she had witnessed or lived before.
“You took me to this store last week,” she told her friends Mel and Joan, when they visited a new store.
“I see that lady walk by every day,” she said from a window seat at the Sunshine Diner, which was not a place she ate every day. “She wears the same red blouse and carries her purse that same way. Ooh, now she’s scratching her head the same way she always does.”
It seemed she wasn’t forgetting; instead, she was remembering things that had never happened!
Her brain was like a room full of stuff, and nothing was where it was supposed to be. New things were coming in, and everything kept moving around. It was disorder and chaos.
As time goes on, it seems there’s much less stuff inhabiting her brain.
These days, she wonders where she is and what she is supposed to be doing. She asks where her house is, and how she will get home. She sometimes asks about her brothers and sisters, and on good days, about her children. There’s not a lot of new stuff taking up residence in her brain. She’s concentrating, with all her might, on trying to keep track of what she has.