Community Blog

What to Do When a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Is Deluded

By Vicki and Brian Day

Delusions are a lot different than hallucinations. A hallucination is a situation in which somebody believes they are seeing or experiencing something. Hallucination usually involves one sense, such as a sense of sight, hearing, taste, sound, or smell. A delusion, on the other hand, can be all-encompassing.

When a person has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, as the disease progresses it may inspire certain hallucinations or delusions. It’s important for family to understand the prospect of these situations and how to keep their loved ones safe.

Safety should be the top priority.

When somebody has a delusion, they may completely forget where they are, how old they are, their physical or mental limitations, and much more. A delusion can have somebody believing they are in a completely different location.
They might think they’re at a beach house, someplace they went on vacation in their teenage years. They may want to step outside and go to the beach. If they begin walking outside, that delusion and the reality that surrounds them can be completely different. They can be a little confused, take a wrong turn, and get completely lost.

That’s why it’s important to focus on safety.

Listen to the individual.

Just because a senior with Alzheimer’s has become deluded about something doesn’t mean you have to correct them. Sometimes all they need is a person to listen to what they have to say. By listening, you will give them an opportunity to speak, share their experiences, and in time the delusion may dissipate naturally.

Connect emotionally with them.

It’s difficult enough dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, but when your loved ones, your friends and family, can’t really connect with you, it can be frustrating. Try to connect emotionally with this individual and the delusion they’re having. More often than not that delusion has something to do with their past.
You may be able to learn a lot more about this individual, even an aging parent, through these memories, delusions, or other issues they experience.

Let them know you understand.

Nothing will offer this individual more comfort than believing the person with them, whether it’s an adult child, spouse, or home care aide, understands what they’re going through. If you let them know you understand, it can offer a great deal of comfort. That can help bring them back from an anxious or nervous state.

Encourage home care support. When a person is progressing through the various stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the more experience a caregiver has, the easier it will be for that individual. Encourage home care whenever possible. That experienced caregiver can help greatly during those moments of delusions.