Hallucinations and delusions resulting from Alzheimer’s disease can be just as upsetting to family caregivers as they are to the seniors experiencing them. However, it’s important to remember these symptoms are merely due to changes occurring in the brain, and you can comfort your elderly loved one by using these strategies.
Know When to Intervene
A person with Alzheimer’s who experiences hallucinations for the first time should see a physician to rule out other potential causes. If your loved one has had them before, you should first assess the situation to see if your involvement is necessary. For example, a senior who is merely hearing a favorite song in his or her mind may find it relaxing. However, you should respond with calm reassurance if your loved one experiences a delusion or hallucination that raises negative emotions.
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Trying to explain to your loved one that a hallucination isn’t real can add to the confusion and increase his or her frustration. This is because your loved one is fully immersed in the emotions he or she is experiencing. Instead, turn the attention to yourself and try to find out how the hallucination is affecting your parent. Once you know how your loved one is feeling, you can then address the emotion by offering support.
Change the Environment
Many hallucinations are influenced by a person’s environment. Look around the room for shadows, and listen for noises and distortions that may need to be eliminated. For example, many people in the later stages of Alzheimer’s are unable to recognize themselves in the mirror, and a senior may grow fearful at the sight of a face he or she doesn’t recognize. Covering mirrors, turning off the television, and making sure the room is well lit can prevent future hallucinations.
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Moving to another room or changing activities can stop a hallucination. Consider planning several activities throughout the day to ensure your loved one has a steady supply of distractions. You may also want to change the subject or have your loved one sit with another trusted caregiver for a few minutes to get his or her mind off the hallucination. If you believe your loved one is experiencing hallucinations and delusions because of Alzheimer’s disease, it’s best to see a physician as soon as possible.
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