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Caring for Dementia: Coping with Hallucinations, Delusions, and Paranoia

Dementia is a change in brain function that causes problems with thinking, memory, and behavior. People with dementia may also have problems with how they perceive things.

This includes:

  • Hallucinations. This means hearing, seeing, or smelling things that are not present. For example, hearing voices or seeing people that are not in the room.

  • Delusions. This means believing things that aren’t true. They may think they are on a boat or in another country. They may think they’re another person.

  • Paranoia. This is a type of delusion. Paranoia can cause suspicion or fearfulness of others. They may accuse others of things they haven’t done. They may act jealous, think that their valuables are being stolen, or that people are trying to hurt them.

Managing these problems

Hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia can be caused by the dementia. Describe the symptoms to the person’s health care providers. Some symptoms may be caused by medication, or an infection such as a urinary tract infection. And some symptoms can be treated with medication.

Tips for communicating

If your loved one has these symptoms:

  • Don’t argue with the person.

  • Calmly say what you see or don’t see.

  • Offer simple explanations.

  • Be reassuring and positive.

  • Let the person know that he or she is safe.

  • Use gentle touch to help calm the person.

  • Distract the person if possible — change the topic or move to a new environment.

Paranoia or truth?

In some cases, a person with dementia may be correct in his or her fears or concerns. Abuse and theft from elderly people may occur, and your loved one may be telling you the truth. Make sure to check the facts and rule out all possibilities.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 7/1/2020
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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