Hallucinations Part 1 — What are hallucinations?
Hallucinations Part 2 — Types of hallucinations?
Hallucinations Part 3 — How to handle hallucinations
Hallucinations can be frightening. On some occasions, individuals may see threatening images or just ordinary pictures of people, situations or objects from the past. Here are some ideas for handling hallucinations.
- See the doctor
- Ask the doctor to evaluate the person to determine if medication is needed or might be causing the hallucinations. In some cases, hallucinations are caused by schizophrenia, a disease different from Alzheimer’s.
- Have the person’s eyesight or hearing checked. Also make sure the person wears his or her glasses or hearing aid on a regular basis.
- The physician can look for physical problems, such as kidney or bladder infections, dehydration, intense pain, or alcohol or drug abuse. These are conditions that might cause hallucinations. If the physician prescribes a medication, watch for such symptoms as over sedation, increased confusion, tremors or tics.
- Assess and evaluate — Assess the situation and determine whether or not the hallucination is a problem for you or for the individual. Is the hallucination upsetting to the person? Is it leading him or her to do something dangerous? Does the sight of an unfamiliar face cause him or her to become frightened? If so, react calmly and quickly with reassuring words and comforting touching.
- Respond with caution — Be cautious and conservative in responding to the person’s hallucinations. If the hallucination doesn’t cause problems for you, the person or other family members, ignore it.
- Don’t argue with the person about what he or she sees or hears. Unless the behavior becomes dangerous, you might not need to intervene.
- Offer reassurance— Reassure the person with kind words and a gentle touch. For example, you might want to say: “Don’t worry. I’m here. I’ll protect you. I’ll take care of you,” or “I know you’re worried. Would you like me to hold your hand and walk with you for awhile?” Gentle patting may turn the person’s attention toward you and reduce the hallucination.
- Also look for reasons or feelings behind the hallucination and try to find out what the hallucination means to the individual. For example, you might want to respond with words such as these: “It sounds as if you’re worried” or “I know this is frightening for you.”
- Use distraction — Suggest that the person come with you on a walk or sit next to you in another room. Frightening hallucinations often subside in well-lit areas where other people are present. You might also try to turn the person’s attention to a favorite activity, such as listening to music, drawing, looking at a photo album or counting coins.
- Respond honestly— Keep in mind that the person may sometimes ask you about the hallucination. For example, “Do you see him?” You may want to answer with words such as these: “I know that you see something, but I don’t see it.” In this way, you’re not denying what the person sees or hears or getting involved in an argument.
- Assess the reality of the situation — Ask the person to point to the area where he or she sees or hears something. Glare from a window may look like snow to the person, and dark squares on tiled floor may look like dangerous holes.
- Modify the environment — If the person looks at the kitchen curtains and sees a face, you may be able to remove, change or close the curtains.
Check the surroundings for noises that might be misinterpreted, for lighting that casts shadows, or for glare, reflections or distortions from the surfaces of floors, walls and furniture. If the person insists that he or she sees a strange person in the mirror, cover up the mirror or take it down. It’s also possible that the person doesn’t recognize his or her own reflection. Turn on more lights to reduce shadows that could look scary to your loved one.
- Hallucinations are very real to the person you care for. You can ease feelings of fear by using words that are calm, gentle and reassuring.