Facts Regarding Delusions Versus Hallucinations in Seniors & How to Treat Them

Facts Regarding Delusions Versus Hallucinations in Seniors & How to Treat Them

Hallucinations can be frightening for just about anyone. Seniors sometimes develop this issue without a known cause. There are many different causes of hallucinations that include medication side effects, illness, lack of sleep, mental health disorders, physical problems like strokes or heart attacks, food allergies, and a recent traumatic event.

Hallucinations that occur in seniors can be frightening for seniors, their family members, or caregivers. Delusions often resemble hallucinations. Read on for facts regarding delusions versus hallucinations in seniors and how to respond or treat them.

Symptoms of Hallucinations & What These Visions Are

A hallucination is a condition that is experienced through one of our five senses that includes:

  • Visual – See
  • Auditory – Hear
  • Taste – Eat
  • Feel – Touch
  • Olfactory – Smell

These are called hallucinations if the experienced things are not real and/or others can’t experience them. Most hallucinations caused by illnesses are of the visual or seen variety. Migraines and other strong headaches can bring on various auras like a metallic taste, seeing things that aren’t real, smelling an odor before the headache begins, or hearing voices that others don’t, among others.

Hallucinations May Occur with Certain Diseases Like Dementia

Doctors now know that Parkinson’s patients often develop mostly visual hallucinations as the disease progresses. Alzheimer’s patients also may develop certain hallucinations, especially during the middle and late stages of the dementia process.

Always report these hallucinatory events to all treating doctors and others on the care team. There are effective medications now available that can prevent or lessen hallucinations.

What a Delusion Is & How to Distinguish Delusions from Hallucinations

A delusion is a persistent self-belief that a person will strongly believe to be real even though this is untrue. A hallucination tends to be transitory in nature rather than the fixed belief that accompanies a delusion.

How to Respond to Hallucinations & Delusions

Every hallucination and/or delusion episode is different. Fear and anxiety can make these visions, sounds, or skin sensations appear to be more frightening and realistic. A caregiver or family member should strive to remain calm.

Alerting the care staff and doctors may help identify if there is a medication complication, underlying illness, or untreated mental health disorders that may be the cause of these scary experiences.

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