Managing hallucinations and delusions: tips for family, friends and carers

A hallucination is when someone sees, hears, feels, smells or even tastes something that isn't actually real. 

Delusions are strongly held thoughts or beliefs that aren’t based on evidence. This can be one of the most difficult experiences to come to terms with, especially if someone has delusions about their carer or someone close to them. 

We spoke to experts in the field about ways that you can support your loved one if they are experiencing these symptoms.

  • The most important thing to do is to get medical advice. In general, hallucinations and delusions can be treated. They should improve with the right treatment and medication but this doesn't always work. In this case it’s important to get help dealing with any distress from the person's healthcare team.

  • Don’t rely on someone telling you they are experiencing hallucinations or delusions. They may not realise what they are, or they may not want to tell you. If they seem to be behaving or reacting in a strange way, gently ask them what the matter is. If you are unsure, explain that you are going to contact their GP, specialist or Parkinson’s nurse.

  • If the person with Parkinson's understands there is something wrong, make sure you are clear who you are going to contact and why. This will avoid any extra confusion.

  • Even if the hallucinations are not upsetting or disturbing, it is still important to tell a member of their medical team if they are a new problem.

  • You should also speak to a member of the medical team if the hallucinations or delusions seem to be getting worse. Don’t wait for the next appointment.

  • If hallucinations or delusions are very severe, telling the person experiencing them that they aren’t real may not help. It could lead to conflict and is unlikely to be effective.

  • Anxiety may make hallucinations and delusions worse. Try to find ways to help the person relax such as talking to them calmly or taking them somewhere quiet to unwind.

  • Some delusions can lead to safety issues, such as someone leaving the house in the middle of the night. In these cases, get advice from their specialist or Parkinson's nurse.

  • Managing hallucinations or delusions and giving support can be tiring. So get support for yourself from those around you and remember to recharge your batteries.

Talking to others

  • Sometimes it helps to speak to someone about how another person’s symptoms are affecting you. This could be your own GP or a counsellor. You can also get support from other local services to help you manage at home.

  • Talk to other people affected by Parkinson's who may have had a similar experience and can provide tips and advice. You can speak to others at your local Parkinson's UK group or on our online forum.

Counselling

  • Counselling can help you and the person experiencing hallucinations and delusions. Many GP surgeries have counsellors attached to their practice or can give information about other local services.

  • There are also counselling organisations that can give information and details of private counsellors. The mental health charity Mind has a range of guides, including Making Sense of Talking Treatments. This covers what counselling is, how it can help, what it involves, the types available and how to find a counsellor. There is a small charge for this booklet if you order a printed copy, however you can view and print it online for free.