Healthy Living

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

Possible triggers

Infections or other illnesses: A kidney or bladder infection or even dehydration can wreak havoc on the body, especially in a brain weakened by Alzheimer’s. See your doctor to diagnose potential physical issues causing hallucinations or delusions.

Medications: Pain medications include potent chemicals that may cause hallucinations or delusions as a side effect. When your family member is prescribed a new medication, watch for symptoms of this adverse reaction. Other indicators of medication that is too strong for the patient include over-sedation (being overly tired), increased confusion, tremors (such as shaking hands), or tics. In some cases, reducing the dose can reduce or eliminate the side effects.

Poor eyesight or hearing: Faulty glasses or undiagnosed hearing loss can play tricks on the brain, causing the person under your care to mirror the symptoms of hallucinations or paranoia. Have vision and hearing checked regularly.

Alcohol: The brain altering impacts of alcohol are potent on young and old alike. Alcohol mixed with Alzheimer’s is a troubling combination. Not only is the brain less able to process reality when intoxicated, but also those with Alzheimer’s may not be aware of how much they are drinking or have the same stop mechanism of a fully-functioning adult.

Poor sleep: Sleeplessness is a common and troublesome by-product of Alzheimer’s. Sleep is the body’s opportunity to recharge and create connections. When a weakened brain is mixed with limited sleep, hallucinations may follow. Assess the true amount of deep sleep your family member is getting each night; less than seven hours may cause deterioration over time while less than four can lead quickly to sights and sounds that are not real.

Social isolation: While those with Alzheimer’s disease need constant care and so are seldom isolated, social isolation could still occur if there is limited conversation or physical touch. Our brains tend to fill in the support we are not getting with fantasies or daydreams that could turn to hallucinations.