How Do I Deal With Hallucinations In My Loved One With Alzheimer's?

Dr. Whitehouse answers the question: 'Dealing With Hallucinations?'

May 4, 2009 -- Question: How do I deal with hallucinations in my loved one with Alzheimer's?

Answer: Hallucinations -- that is seeing things that aren't there, that other people don't see -- are not uncommon, they're not found in everybody. But, as the illness progresses, many people are disturbed by those kinds of things. However, I said disturbed, and it's important to realize that some people are not anxious and disturbed.

A common hallucination is people in the house, like children sitting on a sofa. If that doesn't cause anxiety, then I think you have to be careful about aggressively treating those with medicines that could cause side effects. But another important thing to realize in people with dementia is that they may misperceive something.

So I mentioned children sitting on a couch, that could be because it's nighttime, and because there are pillows on the couch and they misinterpret those pillows as people. So it's important to, again, look around the world as if you were seeing it through the eyes of someone whose vision was being affected by these brain processes and saying, "What is it that I can do to make that a friendlier environment and avoid the circumstances under which people may misperceive objects in the house?"

Another thing that's important is to check on their sensation, because if the person with the hallucinations has visual problems or hearing problems, they may misinterpret the sensory world around them and that may create the opportunity for hallucinations as well.