Hallucinations in which your loved one sees, hears, smells, tastes, or feels something that is not there are a common occurrence in the later stages of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. They are caused by the many changes taking place within their brain as well as memory loss that can lead to the inability to recognize objects or faces. In addition, problems can develop with their eyesight which can contribute to hallucinations as the brain “distorts” the images it receives. This may lead to a shadow on the carpet appearing to be a hole, or seeing a face in the patterns of the wallpaper, or the disappearance of mashed potatoes on a white plate. As the disease progresses, the world becomes a very confusing place.
How to Help.
This can be a fear producing event for both those experiencing the hallucination and for those caring for them. Knowing that it is caused by the many changes and degeneration occurring in your loved one’s brain can help you come from a place of understanding. Acceptance seems to be key for caregivers and for those hallucinating. The following suggestions are based on what has worked for others in similar circumstances:
- Never argue. Your parent is seeing what they are seeing and telling them they are not won’t make it so. What helps them the most in this situation is receiving support, reassurance and understanding. By acknowledging what your parent may be feeling underneath the hallucination—fear, insecurity, or isolation—you help them relax despite their experience. An example of this is joining in on the conversation when they are having discussions with people who have passed on or giving your loved one a flashlight to shine on the little people when they enter her room. These actions empower and validate those that you are caring for.
- Determine if there is a certain time of day that the hallucinations seem to most active or if they involve a specific item. If you notice they occur most at dusk with the advent of shadows, turn on the lights in your parent’s home before twilight and make sure that their home is well lit. If they see faces in the curtain or a stranger in the mirror, consider removing these items. Material that is one color and contrasts with the wall that it is placed against works the best for the changes taking place within their brain.
- If you have young children, you know the art of distraction. Make sure to provide your loved one with a regular routine. This helps them know what to expect in their ever-changing world and provides them with a sense of stability. If dusk is a common “problem” time, consider scheduling a daily walk through the neighborhood at this time, or a simple board game, or reminiscing as you both leaf through a photo album.
Elderly Care Provider.
As is evident and as you know if you’ve been caring for your loved one for awhile, the challenges both caregivers and their loved ones face as they progress through the stages of Alzheimer’s can be many. In order to make sure that you can go the long haul, and lead a balanced and happy life, be sure to schedule respite care at least a few days a week. An elderly care provider is a professional who has cared for countless seniors facing this disease and understands their specific needs. They can provide both companionship and care while you take the time you need to relax and rejuvenate.
If you have a loved one who could benefit from elderly care in Oakland, CA, contact the caregivers at A Better Living Home Care Agency. We help seniors and their families with many levels of home care. Call 925-566-2366 for more information.