Are drug side effects or Alzheimer’s Disease itself responsible for hallucinations and delusions?

Both can cause hallucinations or delusions. It’s worth keeping in mind that hallucinations and delusions are not the same thing.

First, delusions are beliefs that do not agree with existing facts and persistently remain, despite all evidence against them. Hallucinations can involve any sense but are usually associated with seeing or hearing. They cannot be confirmed by anyone other than the person experiencing them.

If you think medication might be causing either of these in your loved one, consult the individual’s doctor. You also can do some research yourself by speaking with the pharmacist or by clicking into the medication’s own website. (Just type in the name of the medication in whatever search engine you use, and you should get the information you need.)

Even then, if you believe a medication is the reason for hallucinations or delusions, check with the prescribing doctor before cutting off its use. Why? Many medications should not be stopped abruptly and need to be tapered off.

Another cause of delusions and hallucinations can be dementia. Alzheimer’s disease, for example, affects each person in a different way. Some people have delusions. Some experience hallucinations. Some have both, some neither.

A general rule of thumb is if the hallucinations don’t frighten or upset someone (they’re “friendly” hallucinations), the people around the sufferer need to just “go with the flow.”

Validation is important when hallucinations appear to enter the picture. If a loved one says he or she hears or sees someone who isn’t really there, you can ask, “Are they nice?” or “What’s your friends’ names?”

The situation gets more difficult, of course, if hallucinations are not friendly. The sufferer might think someone is out to kill him or her, violate his or her loving space or do some other type of harm.

Validation helps in this situation, too, but getting it is trickier than with “friendly” hallucinations. This is where “therapeutic fibs” might come in handy. You won’t be telling the entire truth but it will be in your loved one’s best interests.

If your loved one feels threatened, you can sympathize and say that you, too, were worried so you called 911 and authorities took the offender away. This might or might not put the person’s mind at ease; and even if it does, it might not last long. Unfriendly hallucinations can start up again and you will have to respond again. If such a routine persists, you should consult a doctor.

For more information about Alzheimer’s and how it might affect a loved one, check out the free, Indispensable Alzheimer’s Resource Kit from The Law Offices of Anthony B. Ferraro, LLC.