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Strategies for Managing Dementia Hallucinations

By Lauren Robison, 8:00 am on

Hallucinations are defined as an experience involving the apparent perception of something not physically present. While there are a number of things that can cause a senior or older adult to experience a hallucination, hallucinations are often a symptom of dementia, arising from the neurological changes associated with the condition.

So how do you deal with a person who insists that their long-absent wedding band has been stolen or that they are conversing with an individual who passed away years prior? If you provide in-home care for an aging parent or loved one with dementia, there are fortunately a few strategies that you can use to help reduce the feelings of fear and anxiety associated with dementia hallucinations.

Evaluate

By its very nature, a hallucination is unsettling for those not experiencing it, but they are not always disruptive to the individual in the midst of it. Before taking action, evaluate. Is this hallucination causing distress, either emotional or physical? If it is not, the best option may be to simply observe to determine a possible trigger, take notes and let it pass naturally.

Observe

Impaired vision or poor hearing can also lead to misinterpretation of blurry objects or faintly noted sounds, sometimes triggering hallucinations. Unfamiliar changes, such as moving frequently used objects to new places, can disorient a senior and make them feel extremely uncomfortable. Such feelings can give way to hallucinations or make a senior experiencing a hallucination even more uncomfortable. Bright lights have also been shown to create negative feelings in seniors with dementia, so be sure that the home is well lit to ensure safety, but not overly bright.

Distract

If the hallucination is causing emotional distress, take small steps to distract the person from the focus of the hallucination. For instance, a gentle touch can redirect their attention to you and help lessen focus on the hallucination. Lead the individual out of the area where the hallucination is occurring and into a well-lit space. Is the focus on a missing loved one or object? Ask about the person or possession in question; try to redirect their thoughts to the history behind the subject rather than the hallucination itself. Addressing the emotions involved in the hallucination (provided it’s not fear) can adjust your loved one’s attention away from it and onto a more stable thought process.

Support

Should you note that your loved one is experiencing fear, take steps to calm him or her down: look in the areas indicated, close curtains, remove an object from the room, offer explanations that can be considered for any noises or shadows. If your loved one is experiencing hallucinations and fear in everyday objects and you are not able to be with them on an around the clock basis, it is likely in your loved one’s best interest to seek the help of a New Hampshire hourly caregiver. A professional caregiver will be able to support your loved one when he or she experiences a hallucination and can help with the above strategies in your absence.

There is no single method that is universally appropriate for dealing with hallucinations caused by dementia. However, by learning the various strategies and implementing them whenever possible, you can help bring a sense of calm to your parent or loved one. If you would like to learn more about dementia care or if you are seeking help with your care responsibilities, reach out to the New Hampshire dementia care specialists at Home Care Assistance. We offer flexible hourly and live-in care from highly trained dementia caregivers and all of our services come backed with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Call 603-471-3004 and schedule a complimentary, no-obligation consultation with a friendly Care Manager today.