Hallucinations and Dementia

Written by Active Minds on Friday the 27th of December 2019.


People living with dementia can sometimes experience different types of hallucinations; often these are visual although in some instances people may also hallucinate feelings, tastes, noises or smells. Hallucinations are more common in certain types of dementia such as dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease. Here we will discuss just some of things to be aware of when someone living with dementia experiences hallucinations.

Types of Hallucination

People living with dementia, of many different kinds, can experience hallucinations in a variety of ways. Visual hallucinations are the most common, particularly for those living with dementia with Lewy bodies, and can usually appear in the form of brightly coloured people or animals; they can last for several minutes and may even occur multiple times per day.

Other types of hallucinations which may occur in those living with dementia are auditory hallucinations, olfactory hallucinations and in some cases tactile hallucinations, although these tend to be less common. Tactile hallucinations involve sensing things that aren’t there. Being aware of the different types of hallucinations which can occur can help you to better identify them and support your loved one through the experience.

Offering Support

Although it can be difficult to know when your loved one is hallucinating, there are a few things you can do to offer support. The best thing you can do is to remain calm; try explaining to them in a relaxed manner what is happening and repeat this if they seem unable to retain the information at first.

Asking them gentle questions surrounding what they are experiencing and listening when they tell you, can help you understand and overcome the hallucination together; it won’t help to disagree with them as this may cause confusion and agitation. It can be common for something within the surrounding environment to be within the hallucination, and when this is the case, moving to another environment can help disperse it.

Treatment Options

When it comes to visual hallucinations sometimes it can help to ensure your loved one is having regular eye exams and the correct visual aid prescription if necessary; sometimes not being able to see clearly can induce hallucinations. Similarly, if auditory hallucinations are common, make sure your loved one is having regular hearing tests.

If your loved one is experiencing any kind of hallucinations, you should consult their GP as they may be able to help with a variety of different treatment options. If your loved one is experiencing hallucinations of multiple senses, be sure to seek urgent medical attention. When visiting the GP it is important you take notes of what happens when your loved one experiences hallucinations and their medical history to ensure you can get the best help and support for them as they may not be able to communicate this to the doctor themselves.