Delusional mis-identification is a common symptom for our LBD loved ones. According to Carrah L. Martin, 2009, these delusions, each with its own name, can be about times, places, objects, person, including self, and even body parts. Jo’s mother believed that Jo was an imposter who had replaced her real daughter (Capgras Syndrome). Marie shared that her husband insisted that his home was the imposter (reduplicative para-amnesia). As caregivers, knowing a type of delusion's particular name is less important than knowing how to deal with it.
Judy said she didn’t feel she could go along with her spouse’s delusions. “Years ago, I promised him I’d never tell him a lie.” In the LBDA’s July Lewy Body Digest, an excerpt from A Caregiver’s Guide to Lewy Body Dementia talks about making and keeping promises to our LBD loved ones. The bottom line is “Never make a promise you can’t keep.” Of course, after the fact, you may discover that what you thought was an easily kept promise is now harmful to your loved one.
When LBD takes away our loved one’s ability to reason, the rules change. Imagine how you would feel if the most important person in your life refused to accept what you know with every part of your being is true. You’d be hurt, right? And when someone with LBD hurts, they tend to act out, which at best, is uncomfortable for both you and your loved one, and may at times be quite unsafe. If you can show your loved ones that you are working WITH them to find a solution to their very real and quite distressing problem, they will feel supported and there will be fewer acting out behaviors.
Judy is not lying when she accepts her husband’s delusion enough to move him in a more comfortable direction. She is joining his reality. You don’t have to agree directly. Jo can tell her mother, “All right, Mrs. K., I’m leaving. Jo will be back soon.” And Marie might say, “You might as well take a nap while we're here. I’ll stay awake and make sure you're safe.” Or even, “While you're resting, I’ll get us back home.” No specific strategy is guaranteed to work, but generating the feeling that “we are in this together” will go a long ways towards calming your loved one.