How to support those living with dementia, who experience hallucinations

Written by Active Minds on Tuesday the 1st of November 2016.

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Hallucinations generally occur in people who have been diagnosed with dementia with Lewy bodies, Parkinson’s disease dementia and sometimes people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

If you think that your loved one may be experiencing a hallucination, the key is to stay calm, if you become stressed or angry then this could make your loved one feel even more agitated and scared. Stay with them and explain slowly what is happening. If they are unable to process what you are saying, then do not argue with them as it may cause more distress. Continue to reassure them and ask them to explain what they are experiencing, though be aware that they may struggle with language when they describe their experience to you. It is important to be calm and patient, and give them as much time as they need.

Often a hallucination can be linked to a particular environment so suggesting that you take your loved one for a short walk or into another room is a good idea. If you go into another room ensure that it is well-lit and calming (sounds that could be misinterpreted, such as the television or air conditioner should be turned off). If possible make the space as uncluttered as possible, especially making sure that mirrors are covered so that the person experiencing the hallucination does not mistake a reflection in the mirror as a stranger. Also, try to distract your loved one by turning their attention to something else, like an activity that you enjoy doing together.

If your loved one wears glasses, ensure that they have their eyes checked regularly and that their glasses are kept clean. Similarly, if a person living with dementia experiences auditory hallucinations, be sure to have their hearing checked regularly and if they require a hearing aid, confirm that it is working properly. It is also important to note that some medication can cause hallucinations, so if you are at all worried that this might be the case, then take your loved one to the GP to talk it through.