Dementia is broadly defined as the loss of cognitive functioning. Different functions of the brain like memory, thinking, and reasoning may be affected. This decline in cognitive performance may impact our day-to-day activities. We may also find it hard to control our emotions, or even experience changes in our personalities. Other notable symptoms of dementia include experiencing hallucinations and delusions. If you or your loved ones suffer from dementia, read on to find out how you can cope with these symptoms.
What Are Hallucinations and Delusions?
While some people use these terms interchangeably, hallucinations and delusions don’t exactly mean the same thing. Hallucinations refer to false perceptions and involve a person’s senses where to them, a perceived experience has occurred. For example, a person could see insects on the wall when they are not there in real life. Since the insects appear real to that person, it can be difficult to convince him otherwise.
Delusions refer to thoughts that are ungrounded in evidence, with the person strongly believing in them and unwilling to change his mind. A person with dementia may constantly imagine scenarios where he is in danger. He may claim that there has been a home intrusion or a robbery. This paranoia is considered a form of delusion.
How to Manage Hallucinations and Delusions
We should always respond to dementia patients with empathy. Try not to become dismissive or argue with the person as his behavior is a result of changes in the brain rather than personal disagreement. Here are some of the ways you can help your loved one cope with hallucinations and delusions.
- Keep your composure and avoid getting into an argument: Try your best to reassure your loved one while displaying understanding and concern. Oftentimes, your loved one’s actions and thoughts come from fear. Try deducing the cause of fear and acknowledging it. This validation will comfort him and make him feel heard or understood.
- Take a look at your loved ones’ surroundings: Occasionally, the source of their fears may come from their immediate surroundings. Once you have reassured them, you should determine the source of fear to better understand their triggers. You can investigate if they see things that aren’t there, and ask them about the details. These may be misinterpretations of certain images. For example, leaving the window open may create frightening shadows. This can be solved by covering the window during the day. Staying in a comforting environment can do wonders for them.
- Distract them: If they are exposed to potentially disturbing news or information, it is best to remove your loved ones from what they are doing or watching. Some TV shows can make them feel anxious or upset, and trigger hallucinations. Instead of letting them watch TV, you can try bringing them outdoors and letting them participate in fun activities for seniors like social gatherings and lawn games.
- Seek a professional medical opinion: Dementia may not be the only cause of hallucinations or delusions. Consulting professionals who specialize in memory care can be a good way to make sure that no underlying medical issues are triggering your loved one’s hallucinations or delusions. Other medical issues like urinary tract infections, pain, or dehydration may all be potential causes too. This is especially important if your loved one has recently begun taking a new medication, as hallucinations and delusions may be potential side effects.