Hallucinations are perceptions or feelings experienced by a person which in reality are absent. For example a person may see an image or hear voices which no one else can see or hear. Hallucination can affect all five senses. This condition can occur in anyone, but it is more common in elderly individuals, especially those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Hallucinations are quite confusing with other psychiatric disorders therefore first thing the physician does is to rule out other disorders such as psychotic depression, schizophrenia, and other personality disorders. Hallucinations can be of several types.In visual hallucination a person sees things that are not present. It can be objects, lights, people etc. In the same way it can be hallucination for sense of smell, touch and hearing.
What Causes Hallucinations In The Elderly?
As mentioned earlier the most common cause of hallucination in elderly group is dementia. The other causes include Alzheimer’s disease, side effects of medications and psychosis. Aged individuals suffering from stroke often experience hallucinations.
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are mental illnesses. A person having hallucination in these conditions typically have changes in their brain structure. These changes are particularly seen in frontal and temporal regions of brain.
- Elderly individuals tend to suffer from lack of sleep. If a person has disturbed sleep or has not slept for many days is more prone to suffer from hallucinations.
- Visual hallucinations in elderly usually occur when he has partial or complete loss of vision. Auditory hallucinations can occur if the patient is having complete hearing loss. It occurs especially in people who in their past were able to see or hear properly.
- Elderly suffering from stroke or traumatic injury to brain suffer from hallucinations. Changes are seen in frontal and temporal lobe.
- Elderly individuals often get socially isolated. They are at greater risk of suffering from hallucinations.
- People suffering from terminal illness such as brain cancer, kidney failure also suffer from hallucinations.
- Elderly individual who suffers from high fever often experiences hallucinations.
- Certain medications that are taken by elderly for mental conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, depression, and epilepsy can trigger hallucinations.
Symptoms Of Hallucinations In The Elderly
The symptoms of hallucination in adults are quite confusing. Only if the symptoms are severe the patient may be able to know them. In elderly the most common symptom of hallucination is change in their behavior. If an elderly patient behaves awkwardly, the first thing that has to be kept in mind is hallucination.
Often the patient starts remaining aloof and becomes more anxious and depressed. In fact they are actually confused about their own behavior or perceptions. But they are ashamed to talk about their symptoms to anyone. On detailed questioning the aged person might tell that he is visualizing certain objects or hears voices that are not present.
Other notable symptoms of hallucination among elderly age group include anxiety, memory lapses, insomnia, repeatedly speaking about things that are not present, mood changes and withdrawing from family members.
Treatment For Hallucinations In The Elderly
The treatment of hallucination in aged basically consists of finding the underlying cause and treating it. Hallucination in elderly usually is caused by mental or physical problem. The primary requirement is complete thorough check up by the physician to determine physical or mental cause. There are several medications which are helpful in addressing the underlying mental illness.
Usually elderly people more often suffer from hallucination when they are alone. The best way to prevent such episode is to keep them involved and accompanied with other members of family.
People having impaired sight often have visual hallucination. They see objects and lights which are not present. In such situation if the patient experiences visual hallucination in darkness, he should remain in rooms that are lit with light. He can also frequently shut and open his eyes to cure hallucination.
Patient should seek counselor help as he will be able to guide him how to develop coping strategies. Proper daytime naps, good nourishment also play effective role in controlling hallucination in elderly individuals.