Dementia Hallucinations: Why They Happen & How to Help

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What Are Dementia Hallucinations and Why Do They Happen?

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Seniors with dementia sometimes experience hallucinations caused by changes occurring in the brain. This can be disconcerting for both the senior and his or her family who may struggle to understand why it happens. When a hallucination occurs for the first time, it is important to notify a physician who can run tests to identify a possible underlying cause. Additionally, becoming aware of the types of hallucinations and the best ways to manage them can provide a sense of relief to families of a loved one with dementia.

Types of Hallucinations

A hallucination occurs when a person believes they are experiencing something that is not real. Visual hallucinations are the most common, and include flashes of light, images, or seeing a strange person or object that isn’t really there. Some seniors also experience hallucinations involving other senses. They may hear sounds or voices that are not there, or experience strange tastes and smells. Seniors with Lewy body dementia often see colorful animals or people. These hallucinations usually only last for a few minutes, although Vancouver senior home care experts note they can be a daily occurrence.

Why Hallucinations Happen

Hallucinations are most commonly the result of changes in the brain affecting vision and perception. Hallucinations can sometimes be the result of medication side effects or certain illnesses, and they will go away once a person with dementia receives the proper treatment. In some cases, a person may simply be inaccurately relaying what they saw due to memory loss or language difficulties. Hallucinations are also a symptom of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s where, like dementia, hallucinations are likely caused by abnormalities in the brain.

How to Help a Loved One with Hallucinations

When a loved one has a hallucination, the first step is to assess his or her response. If they are not upset by the hallucination, then it may be best to do nothing as long as a physician has already explained his or her symptoms. If he or she is upset by the hallucination, offer calm reassurance and let him or her know they’re safe. Distraction strategies may be used such as moving to another well-lit room or offering an opportunity to look at favorite photos. Often, modifying the environment can help to shorten the duration of a hallucination.

Providing care for a loved one with dementia can be a rewarding but challenging experience. If you need additional help managing an elderly loved one’s care needs, turn to Home Care Assistance. As a leading provider of dementia care in Vancouver, we can maximize your loved one’s safety and comfort while allowing you the time you need for yourself. Call 778-279-3634 today and schedule a no-obligation, in-home consultation with a trusted Care Manager.