The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Delusions of Unfaithfulness

Of all the questions we get about LBD, this is the most difficult. We addressed the issue in our March 2nd blog, but it deserves more attention.  Mary told us, “Art accuses me of meeting other men. A half-hour trip to the grocery store is a tryst with my lover. A chat on the phone with my daughter is phone sex.” Mary’s denials only make Art more certain of her desertion. She is at her wit’s end.

As  dementia increases Art’s feelings of inadequacy, he fears that Mary will no longer view him as a desirable companion. Because Lewy has damaged Art's thinking filters, what he FEARS is what he accepts as FACT. Thus in  Art’s mind, Mary IS deserting him. The more intense the fear, the stronger the delusion.

It’s easy to say what not to do about such behavior: Don’t try to reason with your loved one. That will only cause more agitated. He/she hears your claim of innocence as a denial of their fear.

It’s less easy to say what to do. You need to find ways to:

a)      Increase your loved one’s thinking filter so he can process his emotion. If he does not jump directly from feeling to fact, it will be easier for him to accept that you are not deserting him.
Dementia drugs, such as Exelon or Aricept, are fairly safe and often help to control behavior. That is, they may improve the thinking filter and decrease his delusions. Even if your loved one’s doctor doesn’t think  cognition drugs are needed yet, you might ask if they could be started with the goal of decreasing acting-out.

b)      Lower stress. Few of us function well when we are highly stressed. However, LBD both adds stress and lowers its threshold. Acting-out (in this case, delusions) increases with stress and decreases when stress is decreased.
Chapter 9 in  A Caregiver’s Guide to Lewy Body Dementia and our March 15th blog speak to dealing with environmental and health issues to decrease stress.  Read these and use them as guides for eliminating things in your loved one’s environment that add stress.

c)      Substitute positive feelings for negative ones. The blessing of dementia is that it makes it difficult to hold two feeling/thoughts at the same time. Feelings, not thoughts or beliefs must be the target.
Perhaps the most effective intervention of all is to distract your loved one with positive feelings and happy thoughts. The stronger the happy feelings the more effective they will be. This takes some planning and preparation. Think about an event when you were having a wonderful time together—when your loved one felt secure in your love. A special vacation, your wedding, etc…. Then, gather together some props: photos, music, items with special meaning, etc.  When your loved one begins to act out, say something like, “Oh, honey, look what I found. Didn’t we look sweet in these photos?” Once you have his/her attention, start talking with the goal of increasing the happy feelings. Remembrances of happy feelings in the past will usually work better than talking about present feelings. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work the first time. This is a learning process. Next time, try again, using what worked and changing what didn’t. Your loved one likely won’t remember what you did or said anyway. It's a new event each time.

d)     Add a buffer so that his feelings aren’t so intense. Since the strength of the delusion depends on the intensity of the feeling, this may decrease or even end the acting-out.
If none of the above tactics are enough, you and your doctor may want to consider another drug, perhaps one of the more Lewy-safe anti-depressants. And, while we hate to even suggest behavior management drugs, they do have their place. Seroquel, for instance, can be quite effective with few apparent side effects. However, research has shown that dementia patients who take even second tier anti-psychotics like Seroquel risk an earlier death than those who do not take these drugs. That said, there may come a time when you choose to balance quality of life against length of life.

e)      Consider residential care. If safety or extreme caregiver stress becomes an issue, this may be the best, if unwelcome, answer.
This is a step that few caregivers want to take, especially while their loved one is physically able. However, with Lewy body disorders, acting-out behaviors sometimes start before other symptoms and advance to being too difficult to handle at home before the physical load does. Sometimes, even when all of the above steps have been tried, the acting out will continue. At such times, caregivers must recognize that anything that puts them at risk also puts their loved one at risk. Thus, if they become so stressed out that they cannot function well or if their loved one’s acting out becomes physically dangerous, placement in a Lewy-savvy residential facility may be the answer.  Caregivers who have fought this step but finally made it, often say, “I’m a better caregiver now. I can give my loved one so much more of me, now that I have regular time to get away and regroup.”

1 comment:

  1. Thankyou for this.I have had to place my loved one in care.Its dementia specific but not LBD specific .I spend as much time as I can with him but he is always bored,saying he just sits around.I do xwords,word finding etc with him & read to him a lot.