Many elderly people suffer from hallucinations where they can see things like people, halos or faces of people. Some elderly also complain of having bugs crawling under their skin or on their faces. These are all hallucinations.
So, why do the elderly suffer from hallucinations? There are several reasons for this. Hallucinations can occur due to fatigue, emotional exhaustion, PTSD, insomnia, depression, cancer of the brain, head trauma, high grade fever, liver failure, lesions in the brain, or demise of a close friend or a loved one.
Several times you may hear an elderly person complain of a smell or a touch. This is often due to the chemical changes taking place in the brain. These changes occur due to aging. Also, at times they can be precursor to a migraine or an episode of epilepsy. Many times, seniors who are suffering from sensory deprivation may have hallucinations. For instance, a deaf senior may end up hearing sounds, while a blind senior may end up having visual hallucinations.
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However, the most common reason for hallucinations among seniors is a health condition known as Charles Bonnet Syndrome. This syndrome is prevalent among seniors who have lost their vision. These seniors will complain of seeing birds, animals or horizontal lines across their line of vision. In addition, these elderly people may also be suffering from some degree of dementia. Other than the hallucinations, these seniors will be healthy mentally.
Another cause for hallucinations in the elderly, both visual and auditory, occur in seniors who are suffering from sundowning syndrome (a frequent symptom associated with Alzheimer’s disease). The symptoms of this syndrome occur late in the afternoons, evenings and nights and are seen in seniors who have dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and psychosis.
A hallucination does not require an external stimulus for a person to see, smell or hear things that are not present. This is an abnormal perception and many elderly people end up suffering from hallucinations. However, hallucinations can be controlled through medications in majority of the cases.
By Kim Martun, elderly care expert and prolific article writer