"Anne! There's a deer outside! I've got to let him in and give him some water."
I roll out of the futon where I have been sleeping and answer her. "Hi Mom. Good morning. It's 7:30."
"Right now! I have to go out there."
"Okay, let's get you out of bed."
I don't have the energy to argue with her, not after trying to talk her out of the murder scenario last night. I push the button on the electric bed until it lifts her torso up nearly to a sitting position. I transfer her 130 pounds from the bed to the wheelchair and push her into the hall outside her room, where I pause, waiting for her to realize there is no deer.
"What are you waiting for? Take me to the elevator!" she commands.
"Mom, you're not dressed."
"Anne! Take me right now."
"Okay, but we'll have to get dressed first."
"Grab any clothes you can find. Maybe somebody else will get to him first. I've got to get him some water and get him in a chair."
"A deer in a chair?"
"Well, maybe I'll have to pick him up."
Fifteen minutes later we are outside on the street in front of Ocean View Assisted Living. It is a quiet, cool morning, sunny.
"He's not here," she says with surprise. "Somebody else got here first. He was by the flowers, eating flowers. Maybe they put him in assisted living."
"Who? The deer?"
"Yes." She sits in her wheelchair looking around at the empty sidewalk bordered by flowers on one side, by grass on the other. Then she announces, "Somebody else got to him first. You took too much time getting me dressed."
My mood goes down a notch. No gratitude here, just blame. I start wheeling her back into the building, past the dining room for the first and second floor residents, who do not have dementia.
"Maybe he's in here," she comments.
Then we are back in her bedroom, putting on her earrings and necklace, combing her hair.
"You want some water?" she says suddenly.
"What?" I ask. Then I realize she is not speaking to me.
We're both silent for a few moments, sorting through reality as we know it.
"What was that little animal--did I say it was a fox?" she asks. "Somebody else got to him before I did. You took too much time getting me dressed."
I take her to the dining room for breakfast and leave her there, gratefully escaping back to her room to shower and dress.
After breakfast we are getting ready to leave for church.
"I think if we fool around long enough he'll show up," she comments.
I don't answer, but as we leave the building, I explain to the morning caregivers why I spent the night and why we toured the front sidewalk this morning. "She had these dreams," I begin. I don't try to keep her from hearing me.
A few hours later, in the afternoon, she comments, "You don't really believe there was a deer, do you."
"No," I say.
"You think I was dreaming."
"Yes," I say.
We are both silent as she reflects on the real and the unreal.
I recall the pamphlets and websites: "Dementia with Lewy Bodies... Visual hallucinations may be one of the first symptoms noted, and patients may suffer from other psychiatric disturbances such as delusions and depression." (www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders)