Hallucinations, delusions and paranoia can be understandably one of the most upsetting symptoms experienced by people with a dementia. While it can be a symptom of dementia, it can also be a side effect from medication, a sign of dehydration, or a sign of an infection or other illness. Therefore, it is always important to consult your physician if your loved one begins to experience hallucinations, delusions or paranoia.
If your doctor determines that dementia or a medical condition is causing the hallucinations, he or she may be able to prescribe medications to reduce these symptoms. However, there are many non-medical solutions that people find effective as well.
Making sure that vision and hearing are assessed regularly and hearing aids or glasses are worn as needed is important when assessing and attempting to minimize hallucinations.
When your loved one is dealing with hallucinations, delusions and paranoia, it is important to address the emotional response that he or she may be having. Try to reassure your loved one that he or she is safe, and avoid arguing about the reality of what they are experiencing. In other words, be honest, but avoid arguing about the hallucination. Many times the individual will be less bothered by the symptoms if they are well occupied and have their mind engaged elsewhere. Distraction can be a helpful strategy.
Other non-medical strategies include making sure that dim areas are well lit and modifying aspects of the environment. For example, covering mirrors if the person no longer recognizes their own face in the mirror, or shutting curtains if they often believe that they see people looking in the windows.
Hallucinations are one of the most upsetting symptoms of dementia, for both caregivers and those with the disease. While they are fairly common, it is important that caregivers, healthcare providers, and all those involved with the care respond with compassion and reassurance. Delusions and hallucinations are often the brain’s way of filling in missing or forgotten information; therefore providing the individual with reassurance that they are safe, and redirection can be the very best way to help the individual relax and remain calm.
For more information regarding hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia, contact the Alzheimer’s Association at 800.272.3900 or visit alz.org/dayton.