Healthy Living

Alzheimer's: How to Care for Someone Who Is Hallucinating

Alzheimer's: Caregiving tips during a hallucination or delusion

Caregiving tips during a hallucination or delusion

When a hallucination or delusion comes on, your job as the caregiver is suddenly amplified. Finding techniques to sooth your loved one will come with time. Here are a few to try out.

Wait a moment. Many hallucinations are harmless and temporary. If there is no danger to the person, you, or others around, give it a moment to play out. Stay close to help, but also just listen and relax.

Don’t argue. Their reality may not be reality, but there is very little chance of convincing or reasoning. Arguments and corrections cause stress to both you and the person you’re caring for. Resist the urge to argue with their current reality.

Respond honestly. While arguments should be avoided, it’s often not a good idea to play along with a hallucination, especially if the person feels in danger. Your loved one may sometimes ask you about the hallucination or delusion. For example, if he or she asks, "Do you see him?" you may want to answer with, "I know that you see something, but I don’t see it." You are acknowledging their reality without arguing.

Use a gentle touch. Tapping an arm may bring the person’s focus back to you and snap out the hallucination. Holding their hand could offer comfort.

Use gentle words. Ask how the person is feeling and acknowledge those feelings. Ask them to describe the hallucination or explain the details of the delusion. In some cases, that will be enough to bring reality back into focus.

Use distraction. Suggest a walk or moving into another room. Turn on lights and gentle music. Suggest starting an activity the person likes, such as drawing, crafts, or television. These actions can calm the brain just enough to end the hallucination.

Modify the environment. As with identifying medical causes of hallucination, modify the environment when possible to avoid the triggers. For example, if the person in your care sees a frightening face in the living room curtain, it makes sense to take it down. For paranoid delusions about someone stealing glasses, for example, try having replacement items available.