Common but overlooked symptoms of dementia and the impact on caregivers

Published: Oct. 29, 2020 at 5:24 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Of the approximately eight million people in the United States living with dementia, 5.5 million are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form. By 2050, that number is projected to reach 13.8 million.

One aspect of dementia that might surprise you is that many patients may experience hallucinations, seeing or hearing things that aren’t there, and delusions, believing things that aren’t true or having paranoid thoughts, that are associated with dementia. These are known as hallucinations and delusions associated with dementia-related psychosis. These symptoms can be hard for patients to describe or realize that they are experiencing and challenging for caregivers to detect. Consequently, their experience is often overlooked or unheard by healthcare professionals.

Recent research conducted jointly by UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, the Lewy Body Dementia Association and Acadia Pharmaceuticals explored the impact of these symptoms on patients. The most common symptoms reported by patients were: visual hallucinations (89%), auditory hallucinations (54%), and distortion of senses (54%). Care partners surveyed about their loved ones with dementia-related hallucinations and delusions identified paranoid delusions (76%), visual hallucinations (75%), and lack of trust for loved ones (52%) as the most common symptoms.7

These episodes of dementia-related hallucinations and delusions greatly impact patients' overall health and quality of life. Interviewed participants described impact on sleep, family and social life, emotional state, independence, and safety.

An estimated 2.4 million people, or more than 30% of dementia patients, in the United States may experience dementia-related hallucinations and delusions. There is a pressing need for healthcare providers and caregivers to be able to recognize these symptoms early and manage them effectively. On Thursday, Meryl Comer, UsAgainstAlzheimer’s founding board member, former journalist and 20+ year caregiver for both her husband and mother joined NewsChannel 7 at 4, along with Stephen Chambers, an Alzheimer’s caregiver to his father, to share their personal stories talk about how to learn more about this aspect of dementia and get help for their loved one.

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