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My mother is 83 years old and in reasonably good health

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physically; it is her mental...
My mother is 83 years old and in reasonably good health physically; it is her mental health that concerns me. My father died thirteen years ago and she has lived alone since. For this amount of time she sees small black lizards in her house (gecko type, only black). No one else can see them. She has repeatedly put out glue traps and has yet to catch one. My mother says she sees them only at night, they don't come out in the day. They are in her mattress (she can feel them) and in the cushions of her chairs (once again, she can feel them moving). The latest occurrence is dust--when the little creatures move in the chairs, they stir up dust that my mother says she can breathe, smell, and even taste. She mentioned yesterday hiring a pest control company to come and set up some type of camera to show everyone else these lizards exist. I would like to also mention this is the third house my mother has lived in since the passing of my father. She claims to carry the lizards with her to each house because they get embedded in the furniture. I think I know what her problem is but she gets very defensive if I mention seeking help. She says she is not crazy and will not be treated as such. Therefore, she will not see a physician. I am desperate as to know how to deal with her. Please answer. Thank you.
Submitted: 6 years ago.Category: Mental Health
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6/20/2011
Mental Health Professional: TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist replied 6 years ago
TherapistMarryAnn
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5,898
Experience: Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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Hi, I'd like to help you with your question.

It sounds like your mother needs a full physical. For the elderly, there can be many reasons for hallucinations. The most common problem is dementia/Alzheimer's. People your mother's age often experience a decrease in mental abilities, especially when they lose a loved one or people in their social circle. The lack of interaction and social activities encourages loss of brain function.

Another possible cause is a brain disorder, such as a tumor. But for her to have a physical issue such as a tumor, it would have to be slow growing and she would also have other symptoms by now. But it could be a possibility so I need to mention it.

There is also a disorder of the eyes called Charles Bonnet syndrome. It occurs with severe vision problems and it often causes people to see things that are not there. It is mostly seen in the elderly.

If she has never had these symptoms before, I would probably rule out Schizophrenia. She is a bit too old for the diagnosis which is usually diagnosed by age 40.

It sounds like she may be depressed, at least. Though depression does not cause hallucinations like this unless it is severe, the loss of your father could have affected her through grieving that she was never able to completely resolve. She would benefit from counseling if she would be willing to go.

Since she is refusing all treatment, you may want to try your local Department of Aging. They should be able to provide some type of home based evaluation to determine if she is alright to be on her own. They can also provide companions to be with her and engage her in conversation. They may also have many other services that would help her. I am not sure where you live, but if you contact your local city or county government, they should be able to provide you with the information.

You can also contact your local United Way. They can let you know the services available for your mother and may be able to suggest ways you can have services come to her, rather than you trying to get her to go.

Also, consider contacting your mother's doctor. He/she may not be able to share information with you, but you could let them know what is going on with her and ask for suggestions and help, if possible. If you do get her to go to see her doctor, try to get a release of information signed by her so you can talk to the doctor.

I hope this has helped you,
Kate

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Customer reply replied 6 years ago
Thanks Kate! I failed to mention my mother has glaucoma and have taken medication several times to reduce the pressure build-up. However, this condition is supposed to be under control at the moment. When she was younger, perhaps sixty years ago, my mother had a complete nervous breakdown and has always suffered from nervousness, being afraid of just about everything, and is really an introvert. Does this additional information help in any way? Thanks again for your reply.
Customer reply replied 6 years ago
Thanks Kate! I failed to mention my mother has glaucoma and have taken medication several times to reduce the pressure build-up. However, this condition is supposed to be under control at the moment. When she was younger, perhaps sixty years ago, my mother had a complete nervous breakdown and has always suffered from nervousness, being afraid of just about everything, and is really an introvert. Does this additional information help in any way? Thanks again for your reply.
Mental Health Professional: TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist replied 6 years ago

You're welcome! Yes the information helps. Thank you for letting me know.

The medical issue is something you can talk to her doctor about. I am not sure if that would have any hallucination effects but glaucoma may just because it involves loss of sight.

But because your mother has a history of mental health issues, it sounds more likely your mother may have anxiety or something similar. A nervous breakdown, although not an official mental health diagnosis, can be several things including an acute stress reaction or a depressive episode including hallucinations. So it may be possible that she has a history of these symptoms. What may have happened is that your father helped her through this before and when he died, she was left without his support and she lapsed back into having symptoms again.

She would benefit greatly from therapy. But if she is still unwilling to go, try the suggestions above. The Department of Aging does have staff trained in counseling so they should be able to at least evaluate your mother and give you a better idea of what is happening.

Kate

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