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5 Common Causes of Dementia-Related Hallucinations

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Dementia doesn’t just impact the memory. The cognitive damage caused by the disorder can also cause perceptual difficulties, including hallucinations. Ahead, learn why seniors with dementia hallucinate and what caregivers can do to mitigate the situation.

When seniors with dementia hallucinate, they perceive the presence of something that isn’t really there. This perceptual experience can involve any of the senses—hallucinations can be visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, or somatic. For most seniors with dementia, hallucinations are primarily visual in form. The hallucinations can be relatively simple—seniors may experience lights flashing—or they can be more complex—they may see the faces of old friends in objects such as pillows.

1. Decrease in Sensory and Cognitive Functioning

Seniors with dementia rarely hallucinate until the later stages of the disorder because hallucinations are caused by dementia-related changes in functioning. Dementia can lead to changes in sensory functioning, as the brain is instrumental to visual and auditory perception. When seniors no longer have reliable sensory skills, hallucinations can result. The impact of dementia on cognitive functioning can also increase the risk of hallucinations. Cognitive damage can diminish the brain’s ability to process and interpret external stimuli. As dementia progresses, seniors may begin to lack essential reality-monitoring skills, which can lead them to experience sensations unrelated to external stimuli.

If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition and needs help with tasks like meal prep, transportation, bathing, and grooming, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of home care services families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.

2. Medications

While the cognitive and sensory damage caused by dementia can lead to hallucinations, they aren’t the only reasons seniors may have hallucinatory experiences. Hallucinations can also be caused by certain prescription medications. If seniors begin hallucinating after beginning new medications, caregivers should ask their loved ones’ doctors whether the drugs have hallucinatory side effects. When hallucinations are caused by medications, doctors are sometimes able to prescribe different drugs to alleviate the unwanted symptoms.

3. Physical Ailments

Problems ranging from bladder infections to chronic pain have been linked to hallucinatory experiences. While a bladder infection might not cause hallucinations in healthy people, when the infection is combined with the cognitive decline of dementia, it can increase the likelihood of hallucinatory experiences. If a senior’s hallucinations seem associated with physical pain, treating the underlying issue may stop the hallucinations.

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be extremely challenging, and a compassionate professional caregiver can be a wonderful source of support. Families looking for top-rated Palm Desert senior care providers can reach out to Home Care Assistance. From respite care to specialized Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care, there are many ways we can make life easier for seniors and their loved ones.

4. Lifestyle Habits

Certain lifestyle habits, including dehydration, excessive alcohol use, and inadequate sleep, make hallucinations more likely to occur. All these habits negatively impact cognitive abilities in healthy people and can cause even greater harm to people with dementia. Because hallucinations have so many potential causes, caregivers should take their senior loved ones to the doctor as soon as they begin experiencing hallucinations.

5. Specific Types of Dementia

Dementia is an umbrella term that refers to several disorders that cause cognitive decline. Some forms of dementia are more likely to cause hallucinations than others. In fact, hallucinations are most prevalent in those with Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s. Lewy body dementia is known to cause hallucinations of brightly colored animals or people. It has also been associated with auditory and olfactory hallucinations. While hallucinations are less common in other forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, they do still occur.

If you’re looking for reliable dementia care, Palm Desert Home Care Assistance offers high-quality at-home care for seniors who are managing the challenges of cognitive decline. We offer a revolutionary program called the Cognitive Therapeutics Method (CTM), which uses mentally stimulating activities to boost cognitive health in the elderly. CTM has proven to help seniors with dementia regain a sense of pride and accomplishment and learn how to engage with others in an enjoyable way. If your loved one needs help with the challenges of dementia, call one of our compassionate Care Managers today at (760) 345-0001.