How to Help Alzheimer’s Patients with Hallucination, Paranoia and Delusion

Alzheimer’s Disease has become a very common condition for seniors. But, while it has become common, Alzheimer’s Association states that it is not a “normal part” of aging. It is also worth noting that the cause is yet to be known. Even so, the association emphasizes that age plays a huge role in it.

As you age, changes in the human body and brain happen in a constant manner. And these “changes” have become the main interest of experts and scholars in terms of understanding Alzheimer’s Disease or AD.

Based on assertions, these changes that happen, especially in the brain, are likely the reasons why several individuals who are living with AD are also suffering from hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia.

Helping Alzheimer’s Patients With Hallucination, Delusion, and Paranoia

Help and support are always readily given to individuals who have Alzheimer’s Disease. And so much more to those who are already experiencing the complications that come with it. One great example of this is the dynamic normally seen inside various senior assisted living facilities.

While the services in these institutions can already suffice the day-to-day needs of the patients, it is still important for every family member to show their support. One of the best ways to help them, especially those who already have the symptoms of hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia, is to fully understand these conditions.

  • Understanding Hallucination

As explained by Senior Guidance, hallucination is simply an inaccurate perception which is only a product of one’s imagination. For people who have AD, they may see, hear, smell, taste, or feel something that does not exist. It is pure imagination and can occur at any time, the publication added.

This is why it can be very difficult for caregivers and family members to make the patients believe that what they are seeing or feeling is not true since they themselves experience the “hallucinations” through their senses.

Keep in mind that Alzheimer’s Disease does not induce hallucinations. Alzheimer’s Association pointed out that the cause of hallucination may include other complications such as schizophrenia, eyesight and hearing problems, other physical and mental conditions, and medications.

  • Understanding Delusion

Delusions are far different from hallucinations. As stated in the same report, a delusion is simply a “false belief” that is being deemed as real by the patients. But, just like hallucinations, people with Alzheimer’s Disease are very prone as well in developing delusions.

It was repeatedly claimed that this is the most common complication that AD patients experience, especially when the disease worsens. Some of the common scenarios of AD patients having delusions include the feeling of someone stealing from them or someone is intruding their property or space. This is the very reason why they always accuse others during these episodes.

  • Understanding Paranoia

Paranoia, as claimed by Bright Focus, is a form of delusion. This can be noticed when the patient tends to believe certain things even without a good reason. Similarly, AD patients who have developed paranoia tend to be very “suspicious” of others, including even family members and loved ones. It was also emphasized that in this condition, people who experience it always feel that someone is “out to get” them.

Possible Causes of Hallucination, Paranoia, and Delusion

Having episodes of hallucination, paranoia, and delusion amid Alzheimer’s Disease can be the result of many things. But, the base of it all was said to be due to the changes that occur in the brain.

These changes are believed to negatively impact the nerve impulses or electric signals that allow the nerve cells or neurons to communicate with the other cells of the body. Although the thesis remains inconclusive, this has been the most applicable theory that experts and scholars believe in.

Very Well Health states, however, that there can be other reasons as well why hallucination, paranoia, and delusion are experienced by people with Alzheimer’s Disease. It was previously claimed that about 7 percent of all 85-year-old individuals today have been episodes of these conditions even without dementia. In short, it might be an isolated case.

Some of the most common causes of hallucination, paranoia, and delusion in an isolated case include:

  • Psychiatric Disorders
  • Sensory Loss
  • Medical Disorders
  • Lifestyle and Environment

Managing Hallucinations and Delusions, and Coping Strategies In Alzheimer’s Disease

If you are a caregiver, whether by profession or not, managing patients with Alzheimer’s Disease who are suffering from hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia can be really daunting and challenging. However, being defensive and dismissive during the episodes of these conditions won’t help you and/or the patient. This will only cause much more stress to both parties.

Here are some tips on how you can help them effectively:

  • Remain Calm

As a caregiver, being calm and still at times like this can be truly draining. Even so, if you feel that there is an urge within you to argue back, keep in mind that people with Alzheimer’s Disease, who also experience episodes of hallucination, delusion, or paranoia, are facing a huge deal of challenge on their own, just like you. Hence, as the person who understands the situation, you must resist the arguments.

Try to keep calm and remind yourself that the patient’s well-being is of the utmost importance. While this may sound too cliché and difficult, this will help alleviate the situation, especially if you are already experiencing tremendous stress.

  • Provide Concern

AD patients who have hallucinations and delusions will always react in a way that will test your energy and patience. However, it is important for you to note that these reactions only manifest their “fears.”

As per Bright Focus’s tips, you must “look beyond” their words and actions, especially at times like this. Also, providing concern and validation will be very helpful. You can actually do this by “acknowledging” the fear that they have.

For instance, the patient is insisting that someone took their money, which you know for a fact that this is not the case. Instead of arguing, try to acknowledge the fear and loss that they feel.

You could say that you will try to help and look for what’s missing. Through this, you acknowledge the fear, which will make the patient feel that you are validating their feelings.

  • Distraction

Using a distraction is a very helpful way to manage and cope with this kind of situation. If in the instance that something has triggered the patient, which then started their hallucinations and delusions, try to use a distraction.

You could set up an activity that will keep their mind busy. It could be anything, actually, as long as it will induce better thoughts and memories. This is also one of the reasons why many memory care homes and senior living facilities today have schedules for daily activities that may likely help them and their minds to get occupied with other things.

  • Study Environment

One great way to give reassurance and validation is to actually acknowledge the fears and thoughts that the patients have. If they tell you that they are seeing something (or someone) that triggers their fears, then it is better to investigate what they are truly seeing.

There will be some cases that they are, after all, telling the truth. So, you must first evaluate the situation and investigate the environment thoroughly.

Final Thoughts

Alzheimer’s Disease is a very challenging condition to deal with. This applies to both the patient and the caregiver. The challenge will even become a lot trickier when the patient already experiences episodes of hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia.

But, despite all of the hurdles and struggles amid this kind of case, you must try to learn the truths in every situation with all of your efforts and capabilities. And the first step to better help the patients is to comprehend where they are coming from and understand the nature of their conditions.