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How To Respond To Dementia-Related Hallucinations In Older Family Members

It’s important to know the difference between hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia. Find out how to identify dementia hallucinations and how to respond supportively.

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    When Laura noticed her mother’s health was deteriorating, she decided to move into her home. At the time, it made sense because she would be near her mom for any emergencies and could also help with the cleaning. A month into living with each other, Laura realized her mother’s health is worse than she imagined. During the day, her mom appears confused and is more clumsy, tripping over steps or banging her arms against doorways. At night, her mom keeps them both awake by screaming and swearing she can see someone in her room.

    Laura’s mother might be experiencing dementia hallucinations. Not every person experiences the same visions. It’s important to know the difference between hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia. Find out how to identify dementia hallucinations and how to respond supportively.

    MORE TO EXPLORE: How The Memory Care Environment Can Empower Independence In Seniors With Dementia 


    Identifying Hallucinations, Delusions, and Paranoia

    When someone you love begins having potential dementia symptoms, it’s tough to get a correct diagnosis. Find out the definition and differences between popular terms and the best way for your family to approach each situation.

    Hallucinations: A hallucination can present visually, audibly, or tactically. It is either a vision or sound that is not happening in the present moment. For example, people experiencing a hallucination may hear music or see bugs on the floor. If this is a relatively new symptom, highlight it to your relatives’ family doctor. Unfortunately, hallucinations are also a side effect of many medications prescribed to seniors.

    Delusions: This is a common symptom of dementia. Your relatives feel they are in a different time and begin to relive that sensory experience. They may feel fear depending on the memory and frustration when they cannot complete the task.

    Paranoia: This is an especially difficult vulnerability for our senior community. With changes in their memory, they may forget where they are or who their caregiver is. Their brain may confuse the situation and plant seeds of paranoia that they are not safe.


    How To Supportively Respond To Dementia And Hallucinations

    Dementia Hallucinations: How Not To Respond

    If your beloved family member begins to experience hallucinations, it’s easy to respond with the following:

    • Anger: Do not raise your voice or scare your relatives further. They are not aware of other factors like your schedule or the company around you.
    • Frustration: Even though the occurrence keeps happening, try not to get frustrated. Try to put yourself in their mind and realize all they want at this moment is to feel safe and secure.
    • Disbelief: If your older relatives come to you in the middle of the night to fight off strangers in the house, don’t brush them away. The images they are seeing feel real, and at that moment, their life feels in danger. Telling them to ignore the image is not helpful and will only force them to be more irritable.


    Dementia Hallucinations: A Supportive Response

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    If your beloved family member begins to experience dementia hallucinations, remember the following:

    • Patience: If they are noticeably agitated and scared, be patient while they explain their experience.
    • Understanding: After they have explained to you what is going on, focus on understanding their emotions. At that moment, they will be scared and uncomfortable. Don’t ignore their feelings or experience.
    • Validation: Reassure them and tell them you will help. Reiterate that they are safe. Depending on the imagery, try your best to clear the room.
    • Redirection: Distract them with something else or physically remove the barriers their mind is distorting. Especially in their bedroom, remove any objects that may create shadows at night or mirrors.


    MORE TO EXPLORE: 4 Ways Dementia Simulation Training Improves Memory Care


    The 12 Oaks Approach

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    Our family of 12 Oaks communities offers a unique memory care approach. If those you love have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, this program is tailored to their unique needs and comfort. Our team is available twenty-four hours a day and will provide support with bathing, grooming, and bladder concerns. Our primary focus is to keep your family members living with dignity. We also have specially designed programs to work on their memory and agility.

    The 12 Oaks team is up to date on the latest treatments and news for our residents. Our family becomes an extension of your family, and we create a safe home environment for a variety of accessible living options.


    If you have questions about dementia hallucinations or any conditions discussed here, connect with us and learn more.

    At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while still leading fulfilling lives. There’s no better place to enjoy the encore season of life than at a 12 Oaks community. For questions or to schedule a visit, please don’t hesitate to contact us.



    Searching for senior living help? At 12 Oaks Senior Living, we would love to learn more about your unique needs and the opportunity we may have to help you meet them. Our blog is one of the valuable resources we provide to inform and encourage seniors to lead fulfilling and thriving lives.

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