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Understanding Parkinson’s Hallucinations and Delusions

Although common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include hand tremors, stiff muscles, and slowed movement, many seniors with Parkinson’s also experience hallucinations. The Boca Raton Parkinson’s care experts at Home Care Assistance have put together this basic guide to hallucinations and delusions to help caregivers gain a better understanding of both.

Hallucinations

Up to 40% of seniors with Parkinson’s disease experience hallucinations. In most cases, these consist of momentary visual hallucinations of someone or something glimpsed out of the corner of the eye. In around 20% of those affected by hallucinations, formed images of people, animals, and objects are briefly seen. Seniors may also experience fleeting hallucinations involving sounds or sensations of touch, although very rarely.

Delusions

A minority of seniors with PD also experience paranoid delusions. One estimate suggests only 8% of seniors with Parkinson’s experience this symptom. However, this symptom can be very distressing for both the senior and the senior’s caregiver. Delusions tend to be paranoid in nature, and involve ideas about jealousy and persecution. Seniors experiencing delusions can be challenging to care for because they may refuse medications under the belief that it is poison, be suspicious and argumentative, and in some cases, be overtly aggressive towards others.

Causes

Medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease increase the amount of dopamine in the brain. Increased dopamine helps with movement-related symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, but it can also cause or worsen hallucinations. Other medications used to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can also contribute to the problem. Sleep disorders are very common among those affected by Parkinson’s disease, and sleep deprivation can lead to hallucinations and even overt psychosis. The neurodegenerative process that causes Parkinson’s disease also contributes to hallucinations and delusional thoughts.

Treatment

Seniors with Parkinson’s disease should talk to their doctor immediately if they experience any hallucinations or troubling thoughts. The general approach to treatment is to first look for signs of a urinary tract infection or pneumonia, because infections often seem to trigger these symptoms in seniors with Parkinson’s disease. The next step is to go over all current medications and determine if any of them might be contributing to the problem. Sleeping aids can be used to treat sleep deprivation, and in severe cases, anti-psychotic medication may be helpful.

Caring for a loved one with Parkinson’s can be challenging, but you don’t have to do it alone. For help managing your loved one’s care needs, reach out to Boca Raton Home Care Assistance. We are available 24/7, every caregiver is thoroughly vetted prior to hire, and we offer customized care plans to ensure your loved one’s individual needs are met. Call (561) 826.9282 and speak with an experienced Care Manager to learn more.