Hallucinations in elderly can be worrisome, for both the senior having them and those caring for them.
It's important to know what the causes are and how to best handle seniors who are experiencing them.
Hallucinations in elderly are abnormal sensory reception - usually auditory or visual - that the senior experiences while they are awake.
The senior is seeing or hearing things that are not really there.
Hallucinations involving smell or taste are rare. But they can still occur so don't think you're loved one is simply "making things up".
For many seniors, hallucinations can be unsettling and some do not mention they are having them do to being embarrassed.
There are a variety of causes for hallucinations in elderly.
Delusions are false beliefs that may influence a person to act in an unusual manner. Such as the delusion that someone is going to hurt them or is stealing from them (when this is not happening).
This can be disturbing for the senior as they truly believe this is happening and become upset or agitated that no one believes them.
One way of thinking about it is that hallucinations in elderly are experienced through the senses (hearing, vision, smell, taste or touch) and delusions are things that the individual believes are true.
Seek Medical Advice:
The first thing you should do is seek medical advice and treatment. If their doctor is aware of the hallucinations in elderly then there are several things you can do to care for the person while they continue to have the hallucinations.
Sit quietly and let them be comforted and reassure them that you are there and they are safe.
Sometimes hallucinations in elderly occur during the dying process - they will see and hear visions from their past. Comfort them and let the visions reassure them. If they are frightened or disturbed by the hallucinations, the doctor may be able to change their medications.
Go Along With It:
For the most part, trying to convince someone experiencing hallucinations in elderly or delusion is not effective. As long as it is not harmful for them or others around them, it is better to go along with it. Change the subject, distract them with something else, remain calm and walk away if you have to.
Calm Their Fears:
You can ask them to tell you more about it (what they see or hear) and then try to calm their fears if they have any. Telling them that their brain is not working properly or they are making it up to get attention only causes negative feelings and behaviour. No one likes to be told they are not normal or reminded they are sick or have a disease.
Stick To Their Routine:
Try to keep to a regular routine and modify the environment so that it is easier to understand. This can include: large clocks, calendars and signs/labels on doors and cupboards.
If They Are Aware That They are Hallucinating:
In some cases, seniors are aware of the hallucination and can understand that it is not real. In these cases, you can reassure the senior that it is just a hallucination.
It's important not to forget about caring for the caregiver. They are in a challenging and often stressful position. They need support or risk burning out or in some instances having health issues of their own due to the stress.
Some ways you can help a caregiver include:
Some services that may be beneficial: