Dementia causes abnormal changes in the brain that impairs memory and cognitive abilities. It affects judgment, behaviors, and feelings and may cause the brain to misinterpret or distort sensual input. Hallucinations happen at the later stages and are more apparent in Parkinson’s dementia and Lewy Body.
The distorted or misinterpreted inputs are what form hallucinations. If your loved one hallucinates, understand that their brains cannot see the same reality as you. They see a different reality, and that is real to them. They may see things or people that are not there; they may hear or feel something that you don’t. Either way, they may benefit from memory care programs. The most important thing is to validate their experience and keep them safe. Here are other ways to handle dementia hallucinations in your loved one.
Stay Calm and Do Not Contradict
What your loved one is seeing or hearing is real to them. They cannot understand from your logical point of view because of how their brains have been affected. They may not even find the right words to describe what they see accurately. The best thing for you to do is meet them where they are. Stay calm and respond to their experience and emotions rather than hallucinations. When you take them seriously, it helps them feel safe. The last thing you would want is for them to think that you don’t care about them.
Instead of contradicting or arguing, redirect and distract your loved one’s attention to you or something else in the room. Try asking them about their favorite song, take a stroll, do a puzzle or offer their favorite snack.
Determine If Your Loved One is Distressed
Hallucinations can trigger emotions in your loved one. They may feel happy, sad, or even scared. Depending on how they think, determine if it is causing your loved one distress. If it is a pleasant experience, let them enjoy it. If it is upsetting them or causing them to take unsafe actions, you must redirect them to safety.
Look around for possible environmental triggers such as background noises or visual stimulation that their brains are misinterpreting. Reflections, mirrors, or shadowy corners may be a source of confusion and fear for your loved one. In such cases, remove the triggers and reassure your loved one. Hug or gently pat your loved one to provide assurance and speak to them in a calm and supportive manner.
Look for Possible Causes
Frequent hallucinations may be a result of an underlying issue. Shifts in routine, a specific time, or a physical need may trigger hallucinations. Tracking activities in a dementia diary might be helpful to figure out patterns and help avoid those situations that trigger hallucinations.
Medical issues like urinary tract infections, infections, dehydration, and brain injury can also cause hallucinations. They may even be having problems with their vision or hearing. Speak with their doctor about it.
Above all, get help when it is needed. Your loved one may benefit by living in an assisted living community that can provide quality memory care.