When a person who suffers from Alzheimer’s or other dementia hallucinates, he or she may see, hear, smell, taste or feel something that isn’t there. Some hallucinations may be frightening, while others may involve ordinary visions of people, situations or objects from his or her past. Hallucinations are false perceptions of objects or events involving the senses. These false perceptions are caused by changes within the brain that result from Alzheimer’s, usually in the later stages of the disease. The person may see the face of a former friend in a curtain or may see insects crawling on his or her hand. He or she may even hear someone talking and may engage in conversation with the imagined person.
When responding to hallucinations, be very cautious. Make sure to assess the situation and determine whether the hallucinations are a problem for the person or for you. Do not argue with him or her about what he or she sees or hears. If the behavior is not dangerous, there may not be a need to intervene. Here are some tips on how to respond to a hallucination:
-Respond in a calm, supportive manner. Try, “Don’t worry. I’m here. I’ll protect you. I’ll take care of you.
-Try gently patting their arm, which may turn their attention toward you and reduce the hallucination.
-Acknowledge the feelings behind the hallucination and try to find out what the hallucination means to the individual.
-Suggest that he or she go out for a walk or move to another room. Frightening hallucinations can often subside in well-lit areas where other people are present.
-Try turning the person’s attention to music, conversation or activities you enjoy together.
Modify the Environment:
-Check for sounds that could be misinterpreted, such as noise from a television or an air conditioner.
-Look for lighting that casts shadows, reflections or distortions on the surfaces of floors, walls and furniture.
-Cover mirrors with a cloth or hide them if the person thinks that he or she is looking at a stranger rather than at himself or herself.
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