A disturbing phenomenon sometimes occurs in a person in mid-stage Alzheimer's. It is totally frustrating to the caregiver who doesn't understand what's happening, and it is terrifying to the person with Alzheimer's. Often, the patient or loved one will seem to get upset or even hysterical for no reason at all, but there is always a reason, and in many cases, the culprit is the mirror. Yes, the mirror.
To fully explain how a mirror can alarm your loved one, let's go back to the basics. By now, you already know that Alzheimer's disease attacks the short-term memory and gradually erodes every memory, one memory at a time. So what happens when an 85 year old woman (who doesn't remember ever being 85) looks into the mirror and sees an image of a woman who is not the 25 year old she thinks she is? She is virtually looking at a stranger, and she is terrified. She may even think there is a stranger in the house. Could this be happening in your house?
Observe where your loved one is when the behavior begins. Is there a mirror nearby? There are so many situations over which you, the caregiver, have no control. However, you can control how many mirrors are available in the house. Just imagine how you would feel if you looked into the mirror and discovered that you had aged 60 years overnight. This could be happening to your loved one every day.
Sometimes, your loved one may make friends with the person in the mirror. This is not as disturbing; however, you might discover missing food in the most unusual places because they are saving food for their friend in the mirror.
As a side note, the mirror could play a major role in a loved one's refusal to shower. After all, who wants to undress in front of a stranger?
If you find that the mirror is, indeed, causing the behavior, then limit, or better yet, eliminate access to mirrors. Alzheimer's disease is a cruel, insidious disease that can make life unbearable for both the one who has it, and for the caregiver. Remember, for every behavior, there is a trigger. If the mirror is the trigger, and you remove the mirror, then you've not only eliminated the behavior, you have done a great service for your loved one.