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Could Mirrors be Upsetting Someone You Love?

Dad has dementia, so you’re used to episodes of confusion and irrational outbursts. But lately, he’s been exhibiting a particularly strange behavior: being in the bathroom seems to make him angry, and he’s refusing to take a shower. What’s going on?

Surprisingly, the bathroom mirrors might be the hidden culprit. Sometimes, people with dementia can think that their reflection in the mirror is someone else. Would you want to take your clothes off and bathe in front of a stranger? Neither does Dad.

Mirrors can cause a variety of problems to people with dementia. He may think a moving reflection glimpsed in the living room mirror is an intruder. He might be temporarily confused by his reflection in the hallway mirror, then be embarrassed and gruff about the incident later. He might even befriend his image in the mirror, and chat with it.

If you think mirrors might be upsetting your loved one, the best thing to do is cover or remove them. Try removing all the mirrors in the house and putting a few handheld mirrors in drawers for personal use. If this isn’t an option, or if some mirrors are tough to remove (like the bathroom mirror), try draping a large cloth or towel over mirrors. You can even remove the medicine cabinet mirror in the bathroom and just leave open shelving.

Mirrors can be a hidden problem that upsets people with dementia, and causes their caregivers weeks of confusion. Removing or covering mirrors can restore your loved one’s sense of peace and contentment.