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Why Do Aging Adults with Dementia Hallucinate?

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Managing dementia-related hallucinations can be a particularly challenging aspect of caring for a senior loved one with dementia. Some hallucinations can be frightening or distressing, such as “seeing” a swarm of bugs crawling across the floor. Others can be comforting, such as “hearing” the voice of a loved one.

How Hallucinations Differ from Delusions

Both hallucinations and delusions are common among individuals with dementia. A delusion is a fixed belief in something that isn’t grounded in reality, such as believing people are constantly stealing from you when they’re not. Hallucinations involve an incorrect interpretation of sensory stimuli, such as hearing music when there is none. The majority of hallucinations are auditory or visual in nature. However, they can affect any of the five senses.

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be extremely challenging, and a compassionate professional caregiver can be a wonderful source of support. Families looking for top-rated Oakville senior care providers can reach out to Home Care Assistance. From respite care to specialized Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care, there are many ways we can make life easier for seniors and their loved ones.

Why Hallucinations Are Common with Dementia

The primary cause of hallucinations in seniors with dementia is the disease process itself. Dementia alters the function of the portion of the brain that interprets the data received through the five senses. Hallucinations can occur with any form of dementia but are most common with Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s-related dementia. Various medications may slow the progress of the condition and alleviate symptoms temporarily, but the underlying changes to the brain are progressive and irreversible.

Hallucinations often occur with sundowning, which is common in individuals with Alzheimer’s. Sundowning is characterized by increased anxiousness, restlessness, and confusion and normally occurs in the late afternoon and early evening. Altering the environment, such as changing the lighting to reduce shadows, covering mirrors to eliminate confusing reflections, and keeping ambient noise to a minimum, may reduce sundowning symptoms.

What Often Triggers Hallucinations

Something as simple as overstimulation or a change in routine can be overwhelming for a person with dementia. When the brain is overloaded with new stimuli, the translation center can misfire and trigger hallucinations. When possible, provide your loved one with a consistent daily routine and limit the number of sights, sounds, and people he or she is exposed to at any one time.

Hallucinations or a sudden decrease in cognitive function can also be a sign of an underlying medical condition. For example, dehydration and urinary tract infections, which are common in the elderly, are often characterized by a change in mental status. Hallucinations can also be a side effect of medications or a result of drug interactions. To reduce the risk of drug interactions and side effects, you should make sure all your loved one’s healthcare providers are aware of all the medications he or she is taking.

If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition and needs help with tasks like meal prep, transportation, bathing, and grooming, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of home care services families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.

How to Manage Hallucinations

If your loved one finds a hallucination distressing, offer gentle verbal reassurance that you’ll keep him or her safe. If necessary, alter the environment to remove the source of the distress. A touch on the arm or a redirection to something else in the environment may bring your loved one back to reality.

If you’re looking for reliable dementia care, Oakville Home Care Assistance offers high-quality at-home care for seniors who are managing the challenges of cognitive decline. We offer a revolutionary program called the Cognitive Therapeutics Method (CTM), which uses mentally stimulating activities to boost cognitive health in the elderly. CTM has proven to help seniors with dementia regain a sense of pride and accomplishment and learn how to engage with others in an enjoyable way. Trust your loved one’s care to the professionals at Home Care Assistance. Reach out to one of our compassionate Care Managers today at (519) 590-2792.