What are Alzheimer's Hallucinations? (with pictures)

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Elderly people with Alzheimer's disease may experience hallucinations caused by systemic changes in the brain.
Elderly people with Alzheimer's disease may experience hallucinations caused by systemic changes in the brain.

Alzheimer's hallucinations are sensory disturbances associated with advanced cases of Alzheimer's disease, although not all patients will develop hallucinations. In patients with hallucinations, people have sensory experiences that feel real — sometimes more real than the surrounding environment — and may also be very detailed. There are a number of ways to address Alzheimer's hallucinations, depending the progression of a patient's case and the type of hallucinations being experienced.

Consuming niacin-rich foods such as peanuts may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's.
Consuming niacin-rich foods such as peanuts may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's.

Most hallucinations associated with Alzheimer's disease are visual and auditory. People may see things like deceased family members, animals, and so forth, and can hear music, voices, and other sounds. It is also possible to experience other sensory disturbances, sometimes in concert; someone may smell flowers and see roses, for example, or hear an animal and feel the sensation of fur or a damp nose.

Patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease may be prone to wandering away from home.
Patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease may be prone to wandering away from home.

This progressive neurological disease can lead to confusion and disorientation in patients. Simply correcting a patient is not usually recommended, as this can be upsetting and may lead to behavioral problems. People have different approaches to managing Alzheimer's hallucinations. If they are pleasant, caregivers may be told to go along with the Alzheimer's hallucinations or to avoid actively challenging them. If they are unpleasant, offering reassurance can help, and some patients benefit from having their caregivers engage with the content of the hallucination. For example, if someone sees a snake in the bed, the caregiver can shoo the snake away or use a broom to “move” the snake to reassure the patient.

Alzheimer's patients may experience emotions more severely than those around them.
Alzheimer's patients may experience emotions more severely than those around them.

Providing a redirection during Alzheimer's hallucinations can also be helpful. Some patients become combative when their caregivers attempt to provide distractions, however, so people should be careful about how and when they redirect. Acknowledging the hallucination rather than dismissing it before moving on with a distraction is recommended. Thus, for example, a caregiver might say, “Oh, isn't the music lovely! Now, could you help with with ...” to refocus the patient's attention. In the case of a frightening hallucination, telling the patient that the environment is safe is also recommended to reduce agitation.

Alzheimer's disease can lead to confusion and disorientation in patients.
Alzheimer's disease can lead to confusion and disorientation in patients.

The development of hallucinations can be a sign of increasing cognitive dysfunction. When patients start hallucinating, an evaluation by a neurologist may be a good idea. There may also be medications available to address traumatic, upsetting, or scary hallucinations to make the patient feel more comfortable. Each patient is different and an individualized treatment plan should be developed to address concerns associated with advancing Alzheimer's disease.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

burcidi

@simrin-- You might want to look into his medications. From what I understand, some of the medications used in the treatment of Alzheimer's could also cause hallucinations as a side effect.

literally45

@simrin-- My grandmother is in the same situation as your grandfather right now. She lives with my parents and my parents are struggling with it.

I actually don't think that she's hallucinating in the usual sense. She's hallucinating but about her old memories. For example, she remembers my dad as a young boy and talks about him as if he is there right now as a child and no an adult. It's weird.

SteamLouis

My grandfather has Alzheimer's and about three months ago, he started having hallucinations in addition to the dementia symptoms. We've seen his doctor about it several times and he urges us to play along as well as we can. My grandfather has been put on more medications now but it's not making a difference. The problem with playing along is that, we can't do it all the time because he wants to go into other people's houses and things like that.

Does anyone else here have a family member with Alzheimer's hallucinations? How are you dealing with it? Have you found any methods that help?

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    • Elderly people with Alzheimer's disease may experience hallucinations caused by systemic changes in the brain.
      Elderly people with Alzheimer's disease may experience hallucinations caused by systemic changes in the brain.
    • Consuming niacin-rich foods such as peanuts may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's.
      Consuming niacin-rich foods such as peanuts may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's.
    • Patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease may be prone to wandering away from home.
      Patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease may be prone to wandering away from home.
    • Alzheimer's patients may experience emotions more severely than those around them.
      Alzheimer's patients may experience emotions more severely than those around them.
    • Alzheimer's disease can lead to confusion and disorientation in patients.
      Alzheimer's disease can lead to confusion and disorientation in patients.
    • Hallucinations may be addressed depending on the progression of a person's Alzheimer's disease.
      Hallucinations may be addressed depending on the progression of a person's Alzheimer's disease.