Dementia is a group of symptoms of many different complex conditions. Dementia affects the part of the brain that is responsible for our perceptions, what we see, hear, taste and smell, the cerebral cortex of the brain. The cerebral cortex is responsible for how an individual perceives a situation and how he or she responds.
Individuals suffering from dementia will experience a range of emotions and express thoughts which appear real to them at the moment. Even though these thoughts are typically imaginary or made up, they evoke feelings that are very real to the person and often times causes extreme anxiety, panic or fear.
Dementias Which Cause Symptoms of Hallucinations
Hallucinations are not frequently seen in most dementias. However, there are a few types of dementias that have a history of resulting in hallucinations.
- Lewy Body dementia- Hallucinations are seen in ten percent of the individuals that suffer from Lewy Body dementia. This is the most misdiagnosed dementia and it is caused by unusual cells, called lewy bodies, which form in the brain and cause deterioration in the brain that result in slowed thinking, physical tremors and visual hallucinations.
- Alzheimer’s disease- Hallucinations may appear in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s disease in some individuals. You may see an individual picking at their clothes or the air. This is often at small things that are not there. Surprisingly, it is not a threat to the individual.
There are many different types of dementia. Each type has an underlying cause and affects a different part of the brain. It is important to note that as the brain deteriorates and the stages of dementia advance, behavioral problems and thought processes may worsen.
An individual with dementia may express that they see or can hear something that isn’t there. They may be insistent that these things exist even though they cannot be verified by another person. Hallucinations may result from changes in the brain, but may also be the result of medications, infections, vitamin deficiencies and other medical conditions.
It is understandable that individuals with dementia are completely unaware that their memory is poor or non existent. To compensate and to make sense of their world, the individual will create their own interpretation of events. So when things become missing or disappear or memories of recent conversations or recent events cannot be recalled, then explanations for things can be blamed on someone else. Directing the blame elsewhere helps things make sense to the individual at the moment.
Hallucinations and Delusions
Hallucinations are not a normal part of most dementias. There is a difference, however, between a hallucination and a delusion, and this is where family caregivers can become confused.
Delusions are ideas or false beliefs about things not based in reality that are thought to be going on in the present moment. An individual with dementia may have delusions that someone is trying to steal their money, poison them or is intent on harming them in some way. These delusions are reality for a person with dementia.
Delusions are very difficult to deal with in a person with dementia because it affects how an individual interacts with those around them.
Provide a Safe Environment
Providing a safe environment for a person suffering from dementia is critical, especially if he or she is experiencing hallucinations due to the disease. Creating this type of environment can be increasingly difficult as the dementia worsens. Moving your loved one into a memory care community may be an option that would not only provide a safe place but also peace of mind knowing that there are professionals on staff at all times in memory care communities that have experience with seniors that are suffering from dementia.
Your local Care Advisor can help you find a community in your area that offers this type of environment specifically for those who have dementia. Call (888) 364-5752 to speak to a Care Advisor and receive free personal assistance in finding the best memory care options in your area.