If your parent has been diagnosed with dementia, you may notice that they begin to have hallucinations that aren’t based in reality. It can be tough to watch these hallucinations occur and make you feel as a caregiver that you are “losing” your parent. The hallucinations can first appear as moments of confusion but can progress to seeing things that are not actually there.
These hallucinations can involve any of the senses, including visual, auditory, olfactory, or tactile experiences that are not actually present.
Visual hallucinations are the most common type of hallucination experienced by people with dementia, and they may see people, animals, or objects that are not actually present. Auditory hallucinations may involve hearing voices or sounds that are not actually there, while olfactory hallucinations involve smelling things that are not present. Tactile hallucinations involve feeling things that are not actually touching the person.
Acknowledge Their Feelings but Not the Hallucination
It may seem like a weird idea to not “correct” your parent’s hallucination but you need to determine if the hallucination is having a negative effect on their psyche. If their hallucination is incorrect but happens to be having a calming effect on them, it might not be worth addressing it. You can acknowledge the hallucination but not confirm whether it is correct or not. Disagreeing with them can turn the situation from a pleasant one to one that is now filled with tension.
Identify Triggering Objects
Yes, it’s possible for dementia hallucinations to be triggered by objects. In some cases, an object may trigger a hallucination because it reminds the person of something from their past or because it looks similar to something that they are familiar with. For example, a person with dementia may see a coat hanging on a coat rack and mistake it for a person, leading to a hallucination of somebody being in their room. If you notice your parent acknowledges an object or certain location of a room before a hallucination event occurs, try to remove whatever is triggering the event.
Let Them Know You Are There for Them
Dementia hallucinations can be very distressing and frightening for the person experiencing them. Reassuring the person can help to alleviate their anxiety and provide a sense of comfort and security.
It is also important to maintain this positive and supportive relationship with your aging parent, even as their dementia progresses. Reassuring them during a hallucination can help to build trust and strengthen your relationship.
Responding with reassurance and empathy can also help to prevent the person from becoming agitated or upset, which can escalate your parent’s symptoms and make them more difficult to manage.
Hallucinations in dementia can be very distressing for the person experiencing them, and they can also be challenging for caregivers and family members. You can also speak with a healthcare provider or specialist at your parent’s memory care facility for additional guidance on how to best manage the person’s symptoms.