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Can A Person With Dementia Have Hallucinations

How Are Hallucinations Diagnosed

Caregiver Training: Hallucinations | UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care

The best thing to do is call your doctor right away if you suspect that your perceptions arent real. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and perform a physical exam. Additional tests might include a blood or urine test and perhaps a brain scan.

If you dont already have a mental health professional, the Healthline FindCare tool can help you find a physician in your area.

If you know someone whos hallucinating, dont leave them alone. In some severe cases, fear and paranoia triggered by hallucinations can lead to dangerous actions or behaviors.

Stay with the person at all times and go with them to the doctor for emotional support. You may also be able to help answer questions about their symptoms and how often they occur.

Your doctor will be able to recommend the best form of treatment for you once they figure out whats causing your hallucinations.

Tips For Managing False Beliefs And Delusions As They Happen

Please remember that sometimes the claims the person with dementia is making may be right and someone could be stealing from them or taking advantage of their vulnerability. This needs to be carefully checked before jumping to the conclusion that what they are saying is a false belief or delusion.;If you are concerned, you can contact;Dementia UKs Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline on0800 888 6678

Practical Tips On Preventing Perceptual Difficulties And Hallucinations

Ways to avoid visual misperceptions and hallucinations

  • Take the person for regular eyesight tests
  • If they wear glasses, make sure theyre clean
  • Cover mirrors or turn them around to face the wall. People with dementia can misinterpret reflections as other people in the house
  • Move other objects that could be mistaken for a person; for example, coat stands, dressing gowns or coats hung on doors
  • Prevent reflections from windows with blinds or curtains
  • Avoid busy patterns on carpets or tiles, and, if possible, try to avoid changes in the levels of the floor, such as from thick carpet to bare floor, which might be difficult for a person with dementia to see
  • Make sure rooms are well lit
  • Use contrasting colours to help the person with dementia; for instance, bright, block colour plates help food stand out; brightly coloured towels are easier to see against the wall; a vivid coloured toilet seat is easier to see against the backdrop of the bathroom

Ways to avoid auditory misperceptions and hallucinations

  • Take the person for regular hearing tests
  • If they wear a hearing aid, make sure its cleaned and maintained, and the battery is checked regularly
  • Speak slowly and calmly to the person
  • Face them when speaking
  • Turn off background noise such as the TV and radio when speaking to them

Ways to avoid taste misperceptions and hallucinations

Ways to avoid sense of touch misperceptions and hallucinations

Ways to avoid sense of smell misperceptions and hallucinations

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Memory Loss And Dementia

  • events the person may forget part or all of an event
  • words or names the person progressively forgets words and names of people and things
  • stories on TV, in movies or books the person progressively loses the ability to follow stories
  • stored knowledge over time, the person loses known information such as historical or political information
  • everyday skills the person progressively loses the capacity to perform tasks such as dressing and cooking.

Be Cautious Before Responding


Assess the situation before responding to the persons delusions. Is anyone at risk of harm?

If not, its often best to ignore the behavior stemming from a false belief. As long as the behavior does not become dangerous, you might not need to intervene, Heathman says.

For example, your loved one is walking around repositioning the placemats on the table and refolding the napkins. You ask them what they are doing and they say my boss is coming back soon and I need to have all of the tables in the restaurant set or I will get fired. Refolding napkins does not harm anyone. The unmet need here may be one of purpose or they may be anxious. In both cases, offering help would meet the need and allow you to connect with them.

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Caregivers Can Learn How To Respond To Psychosis In The Moment

It can be difficult to know how to respond when your loved one is having a hallucination or delusion. In less severe situations, it may be appropriate to try to redirect attention by offering an activity or a food that the person enjoys, Dr. Foff explains. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is not to dispute your loved ones reality, but to gently steer the conversation elsewhere.

If the delusion is distressing but non-threatening, it may be appropriate to avoid disagreeing with the person or trying to correct them, Dr. Foff says. An example of this might be that your loved one believes they used to be famous, or that a family member stole a small possession from them. A more threatening delusion would be something like the belief that someone is stalking them, or that their spouse is stealing large amounts of money. In that case, you can listen, briefly offer your opinion to reassure them, and try again to redirect conversation.

Your approach will change based on the frequency and severity of psychosis symptoms. Dr. Foff encourages caregivers to talk with their loved ones healthcare provider for advice and support.

Environment Modification & Medical Intervention

Changing the environment is another effective way to reduce or even abort an episode of delusion or hallucination. If a person imagines they see people in the window, you can open or close the curtains to modify the environment. Maintaining a well-lit space is another way to reduce fear by eliminating shadows. Some seniors may have trouble identifying themselves during an episode and will claim that a stranger is looking at them through the mirror. Covering the mirror or moving them away from it will help reduce the intensity of their episode. Many seniors who suffer from dementia will feel that people are stealing from them. In actuality, most often items have simply been lost, misplaced, or put away in a new location. Keeping duplicates of commonly lost items on hand can also help arrest an episode.

Most holistic and interactive interventions work well for seniors suffering from dementia, but there are times when medications may be the only option. A medical professional can evaluate the senior to ascertain if medication to reduce delusions and hallucinations is the best option. Seniors who suffer from separate mental illnesses like schizophrenia may be suffering from delusions and hallucinations due to that condition and not dementia.;

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Is It Really A Hallucination

First make sure that what youre dealing with is a hallucination caused by dementia and not simply the result of:

Eye sight problems

Dementia can affect sight and vision in many different ways. For example, a person with dementia might mistake a reflection in the mirror for an intruder or think people on TV are in the room with them. They could also have problems recognising familiar faces or become wary of familiar environments, for example, a shiny floor might look wet, a shadow in a corner might look like a hole.So before assuming theyre having a hallucination, arrange a sight test with an optician and make sure each room in the home is well lit and dementia friendly.

Other health issues

A kidney or bladder infection, alcohol, and certain medications can also cause confusion and lead to hallucinations.

This Condition Can Also Cause Delusions

Dementia Caregiving Hallucinations or Delusions

Delusions are fixed beliefs that are factually incorrect. A common delusion is one of theft, when a person believes that someone, even a loved one, is stealing their money, jewelry, or other valuables, Dr. Foff says. The patient may fear they are being abandoned by their family or that their spouse is having an affair. Even when this is demonstrably untrue, its very difficult to get someone to abandon this belief. Their brain has convinced them of a differentif untruereality.

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How To Help Someone Manage Lewy Body Dementia

When it comes to helping someone manage the symptoms of LBD, small things can often make a big difference.

Create a routine.;It can help someone with LBD to have predictable routines, especially around meal times and sleep times.

Establish a nighttime ritual.;Try to establish bedtime rituals that are calming and away from the noise of television, meal cleanup, and active family members. Limiting caffeine consumption and daytime napping, and encouraging exercise can help curb restlessness at night.

Modify tasks.;Break tasks into easier steps and focus on success, not failure.

Walk together.;Taking a walk with the patient with LBD is a win-win activity. Being outdoors and exercising is vital for the health and state of mind for both the patient and you.

Strengthen senses.;Have a doctor evaluate each the patients five senses in order to identify and treat any abnormalities. Then ask about exercises to improve them.

Make lifestyle changes.;To help minimize the risk of fall-related injuries, you can help stabilize blood pressure. Help your loved one stay well hydrated, exercise, take in adequate sodium , avoid prolonged bed rest, and stand up slowly.

Tips for managing behavioral changes

One of the major challenges of caring for a loved one with dementia can be coping with the troubling behavioral changes that often occur. As a caregiver, you cant change the person with dementia, but you can employ strategies to modify or better accommodate any problem behaviors.

Support groups

Signs And Symptoms Of Lewy Body Dementia

As with Alzheimers disease or Parkinsons disease, the symptoms of Lewy body dementia worsen over time, with intellectual and motor functions deteriorating, typically over several years. Despite the overlaps, however, there are symptoms that indicate the disorder is indeed LBD and not another condition.

While patients with LBD lose cognitive function, they are less prone to the short-term memory loss associated with Alzheimers disease. More commonly, they experience greater problems with executive functions of planning, decision-making, and organization, as well as difficulties with visual perception, such as judging and navigating distances. This can cause you to fall or faint frequently or become lost in familiar settings. Lewy body dementia can also cause sleep disturbances, including insomnia and daytime sleepiness.

If you have Lewy body dementia, you will also exhibit at least two of four core features:

Changes or fluctuations in awareness and concentration.;You swing from a state of alertness to appearing drowsy, confused, or staring into space. These episodes can be unpredictable and last anywhere from a few seconds to several hours.

Spontaneous Parkinsons-like motor symptoms,;such as slowness of movement, rigid muscles, tremor, lack of facial expression, or abnormal gait.

Recurrent visual hallucinations or delusions,;such as seeing shapes, colors, people, or animals that arent there or conversing with deceased loved ones.

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Who Does It Affect

Changes in perception and less commonly, hallucinations, can affect anyone who has physical changes to either their sensory organs, or their brain or both. This means that it can affect people who have sight or hearing problems, delirium, an infection, side effects or adverse effects from taking medication, or the over-use of alcohol.

Changes in perception are more common in people with dementia as they may experience these physical changes to their sensory organs, as well as experiencing changes in the brain. People who are diagnosed with dementia with Lewy bodies are more likely to have visual hallucinations than people with any other form of dementia, due to the particular changes in the brain that take place with this kind of dementia.

Changes in perception and hallucinations in dementia

What You Need To Know

Ted Turner diagnosed with dementia
  • Lewy body dementia is a form of progressive dementia that affects a persons ability to think, reason, and process information.
  • Diagnosing Lewy body dementia can be challenging; an estimated 1.4 million Americans are living with the disease.
  • LBD has three features that distinguish it from other forms of dementia:
  • Fluctuating effects on mental functioning, particularly alertness and attention, which may resemble delirium
  • Recurrent visual hallucinations
  • Parkinson-like movement symptoms, such as rigidity and lack of spontaneous movement.
  • Interventions used in other forms of dementia may help people living with Lewy body dementia. Its important to work with a specialist familiar with the many aspects of the disease.
  • Lewy bodies are clumps of abnormal protein particles that, for reasons that are not fully understood, accumulate in the brain. These deposits cause a form of dementia called Lewy body dementia, or LBD which is what the late actor and comedian Robin Williams suffered from.

    LBD is not the same as Parkinsons, but the two are closely related: LBD causes some or all of the motor symptoms of Parkinsons. More than 1 million people in the U.S. are affected by Lewy body dementia, according to the Lewy Body Dementia Association.

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    Supporting A Person Who Is Experiencing Hallucinations

    If the person you care for regularly hallucinates, make an appointment for them to see their GP.;

    Make sure the person has regular medication reviews with a pharmacist or GP as new medications, or the combination of their medications, can be a cause of hallucinations. See further down this page for a list of information to take when you visit the GP.

    When a person is hallucinating, how you respond has a big impact on their experience and wellbeing. If a person is hallucinating, try the following tips.

    • If the persons hallucinations involve multiple senses, seek medical help immediately, as this can be a sign of serious illness. You should seek medical attention if:
    • the hallucinations frighten the person
    • the hallucinations last a long time
    • the hallucinations happen often
    • the person seems more confused than usual .
  • Calmly explain what is happening. If they cannot retain this information, repeat it when they are more relaxed. If this is still not possible, dont argue with them it will not help. Trying to convince someone that they are mistaken can lead to more distress.
  • Stay with the person and try to reassure them. Ask them to describe their hallucination.
  • Hallucinations may be limited to a particular setting. Gently leading someone away from where they are having the hallucinations can help make them disappear.
  • Check that the person is not hungry, thirsty or uncomfortable. Dehydration, constipation or infection can lead to delirium, a cause of hallucinations.
  • How To Respond In The Moment

    It can be tricky to respond when your loved one is seeing or hearing strange things. Its a very uneasy situation, Cynthia notes of dealing with Dons hallucinations. You get very sad, but also frustrated. Appealing to logic wont helpthis persons brain is playing tricks on them, and they cant understand the difference between whats true and what isnt.

    When the hallucination or delusion is occurring, there is no need for the caregiver to go to great lengths to reason with their loved one, says Richard Isaacson, M.D., a neurologist at New York-Presbyterian and founder of the Alzheimers Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. Whatever that patient is seeing, hearing, or believing feels real.

    The best approach really depends on your unique situation. Here are a few tips for caregivers:

    There is no perfect way to navigate this unpredictable and debilitating disease. Coping with and managing these symptoms in the moment can be hard, Dr. Foff admits. Currently, no FDA-approved treatment exists specifically for dementia-related psychosisalthough there could be one available as soon as April 2021.

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    Causes Of Dementia With Lewy Bodies

    Dementia with Lewy bodies is caused by clumps of protein forming inside brain cells. These abnormal deposits are called Lewy bodies.

    These deposits are also found in people with;Parkinson’s disease, and they build up in areas of the brain responsible for functions such as thinking, visual perception and muscle movement.

    It’s not clear why the deposits develop and how exactly they damage the brain. It’s thought that part of the problem is the proteins affecting the brain’s normal functions by interfering with signals sent between brain cells.

    Dementia with Lewy bodies usually occurs in people with no family history of the condition, although there have been very rare cases that seem to run in families.

    Why Does It Happen

    What is Schizophrenia? – It’s More Than Hallucinations

    Dementia can cause people to have difficulty with recognising people, places and things, particularly in later stages. Dementia can also affect peoples memory, so that they might not remember where they left something or why theyre in a particular place.

    These problems with recognition and memory can lead to suspicion, paranoia and false beliefs. They might think that strange people are in their house; they might find themselves unexpectedly in a place they dont recognise. Objects might seem to disappear from the place they were sure they were in. Conversations theyre having might not make sense to them. People seek to understand these confusing and worrying events, and might do so by blaming someone or something else.

    Delirium can also lead to the appearance or increase in false beliefs or different realities. If there is a sudden change in someones behaviour or thinking, or they appear much more confused than usual, it could be due to delirium. This should be investigated by a doctor immediately .

    How can I recognise when a person with dementia is experiencing delusions?

    The person with dementia might:

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    Top 5 Tips For Managing Hallucinations And Delusions

    The following five tips are more effective ways to manage a person with Alzheimers or other forms of dementia when they are experiencing hallucinations and delusions:

  • Remain calm and resist any urge to argue.
  • Provide reassurance, understanding, and concern. Underlying your loved ones reactions are feelings of fear. Look beyond their words for the emotion, and provide validation by acknowledging their fear. An example of a validating statement might be, That must be scary to think someone is in the house with you. With this response, you acknowledge your loved ones fear.
  • Investigate the immediate environment. Sometimes the cause is in the immediate environment. Having acknowledged their fear with your reassurance, determine the cause. Are they seeing something that you just do not see? Find out where and what it is. Are they seeing it at a certain time of day? Perhaps the lighting through the window at a certain time of day creates a shadow, which can be eliminated by closing the drapes at that time of day, or spending that time in a different room.
  • ;Use distraction. Are the people on a favorite TV show now in their bedroom? Have there been violent or upsetting shows on TV when your loved one is in the room? Keep the TV off, and plan another activity for that time of day. What other activities do they like? Some common distractions include taking a walk, doing puzzles, playing cards, and looking at photos.

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