A hallucination is a false perception of objects or events involving the senses. When individuals with dementia have a hallucination, they see, hear, smell, taste or feel something that isn't there. The person may see the face of a former friend in a curtain or may hear people talking. People with Lewy bodies dementia may experience hallucinations.

If the hallucination doesn't cause problems for you, the person or other family members, you may wish to ignore it.

However, if they happen continuously, consult a physician to determine if there is an underlying physical cause. Also, have the person's eyesight and hearing checked, and make sure the person wears his or her glasses and hearing aid on a regular basis.

Offer reassurance

• Respond in a calm, supportive manner

• A gentle tap on the shoulder may turn the person's attention toward you

• Look for the feelings behind the hallucinations. You might want to say, 'It sounds as if you're worried' or 'I know this is frightening for you'

• Avoid arguing with the person about what he or she sees. Remember that, to them, it is real. Denying or trying to explain that the hallucination does not exist will cause greater agitation and stress for you and the person with dementia

Use distractions

• Suggest that you take a walk or sit in another room. Frightening hallucinations often subside in well-lit areas where other people are present

• Try to turn the person's attention to music, conversation or activities you enjoy together

•Modify the environment by making the light brighter and removing distracting patterned curtains or soft furnishings

• Check for noises that might be misinterpreted, such as noise from a television or an air conditioner

• Check for lighting that casts shadows, reflections or distortions on the surfaces of floors, walls and furniture

• Cover mirrors with a cloth or remove them if the person thinks that he or she is looking at a stranger

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Did you know?

There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK with numbers set to rise to over 1 million by 2021. This will soar to 1.7 million by 2050.