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.
Here we share tips to help you support your loved one – and yourself – if someone you know is experiencing these symptoms.
It’s important to get medical advice. 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.
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.
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.
You should instead acknowledge their experience and try distracting them from it. Do not engage or join in with their hallucination.
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.
Sometimes, your loved one may think you're part of the hallucination or delusion. Consider having a pre-agreed ‘code’ to use to help reorientate and bring them back to the present. This could be an object like your wedding ring or a necklace.
Talking to others
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.
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.
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.