hallucinations in elderly

Hallucinations in Elderly

Causes, Tips and More

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.

Causes of Hallucinations in the Elderly

There are a variety of causes for hallucinations in elderly.

  • Medication side effects
  • Illnesses - brain cancer, liver or kidney failure
  • Dementia and Alzheimer's disease
  • Dehydration
  • Psychiatric diagnoses
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Part of dying process - some seniors experience visions and hear people while they come closer to dying
  • Part of the grieving process - some elderly may hear or see their loved ones in the short time after their loved ones death
  • Can be associated with hearing and visual impairments
  • Can be associated with dementia and delirium

What about Delusions 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.

How to Care for Elderly Experiencing Hallucinations

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:

Sit quietly and let them be comforted and reassure them that you are there and they are safe.

Comfort Them:

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.

Care for the Caregiver

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:

  • Give them a break (respite) - It's important that caregivers have time for themselves. Not just for running errands but to relax and participate in activities they enjoy. Many caregivers have to spend their respite time completing household errands which is not relaxing or providing them with the rest they need.
  • Help out with household errands/tasks - As mentioned above, many caregivers spend their respite time completing household errands which does not allow them to relax/rest. Help with grocery shopping or cleaning or mowing the lawn. Encourage them to enjoy their time off and not spend it on things that are not enjoyable/relaxing.
  • Keep in touch - Phone or stop by and visit. Check in on both the caregiver and the person being cared for - you may notice things that they do not. Ask if they need assistance and be specific. They may be so overwhelmed that they cannot immediately recall what needs to be done.
  • Listen - Take time to listen. Often caregivers spend ++time with their loved one that may have decreased cognition and unable to have an in-depth conversation. The caregiver may simply need to vent their feelings about the day and their situation - listen to them. You do not always need to provide advice or direction or solve their problems - all they may need is someone to listen.

Some services that may be beneficial:

  • Adult Day Centers - The type of program varies in each community so it's worth contacting your local senior information bureau or senior center for more information about local options. Many adult day centers provide day programs (once or twice a week) for individuals with cognitive issues and their caregivers. This gives the caregiver time off and provides participants with time away from home and activities designed specifically for them.
  • Home Care Services - Many individuals with cognitive issues such as hallucinations can benefit from home care services. This can range from companionship for caregiver respite to assistance with personal care tasks such as showering and getting dressed.
  • Respite - This can be for a few hours to a few weeks depending on the caregivers needs and the community resources available. Some respite programs are provided at the client's home and others are at facilities such as a skilled nursing home.

Like Caring-for-Aging-Parents.com?

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.