Blog: How to Handle Parkinson’s Hallucinations

Blog: How to Handle Parkinson’s Hallucinations

Parkinson’s Disease is cruel, not only attacking the body but hijacking the mind. As time passes, your loved one may seem increasingly disconnected from reality, which can be equally baffling and heartbreaking.

The key to navigating this situation is perspective, and the right facts can give it to you. Keep reading to grow your understanding, which could make a tremendous difference in how you cope with living with a Parkinson’s patient who suffers from hallucinations.

How Common are Hallucinations with Parkinson's?

It’s more common than you might think. Between 20-40% of patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s report hallucinations. More people experience this troubling symptom as the disease advances.

Does this mean these visions are a consistent symptom in every case? No. Sometimes patients see things for a short time due to infections or medications. But many patients see things that are not real consistently.

What Triggers Hallucinations in Parkinson's?

It usually boils down to three potential causes: medication, dementia, or delirium.


A variety of drugs increase dopamine levels, which can lead to emotional and behavioral changes. Examples include carbidopa-levodopa (Sinemet), dopamine agonists, amantadine, and anticholinergics. If your loved one is taking any of these, they may be the culprit.


People with Parkinson’s may also develop dementia, which is marked by a decline in memory and the ability to think clearly. Parkinson’s and dementia are a tragic recipe for hallucinations and delusions, potentially indicating Lewy body dementia.


Unlike dementia, this is a temporary symptom related to the patient’s attention span and ability to concentrate. If your loved one has been hospitalized, delirium can arise due to infections, electrolyte imbalances, stroke, and other medical conditions. Several medications and substances, including anticholinergic drugs, narcotics, antibiotics, NSAIDs, insulin, sedatives, steroids, anti-seizure drugs, alcohol, and recreational drugs, can also trigger delirium.

How Do I Handle My Loved One's Parkinson's Hallucinations?

We need to break this up into two sections: during the hallucination and after:

During the Hallucination

You might want to try to convince them that what they’re experiencing is not real. Don’t do that because it can be intensely real to them. The best advice is to instead make sure they feel safe. Let them know that, regardless of what they’re seeing, nothing will harm them.

You can also switch on every light in the room because hallucinations materialize in low light. This is a great way to “expose” reality.

You can also encourage them to look more closely to understand that their brain may be misinterpreting what they’re seeing. That man outside the window may be a tree in real life. You can also divert their attention elsewhere, pulling them out of their vision.

There are many instances where hallucinations are not intense or extreme experiences. The patient may make odd remarks or be absolutely convinced that something unreal is in fact quite real. However, they’re calm.

But not always. It’s possible hallucinations may cause anxiety or panic. The patient may feel like their life or yours is in danger. No matter what, you need to stay calm. If you see anything that could pose a threat (a knife in the kitchen, for example), remove it.

Clear anything that the patient could trip on, like shoes in the middle of the floor. Let them roam freely, so they don’t feel trapped. And as you continue to exude patience and a calm demeanor, remember to let them know that everything is alright. They are safe, and you are right there.

It’s also wise to keep your phone handy. If the person becomes aggressive, don’t hesitate to call 911.

After the Hallucination

Once the hallucination has passed, talk to them in a friendly and gentle way about what happened. You should also take note of different factors that may have caused it. For example, what time of day is it? Is it in the evening? Are their hallucinations more common then? How tired or hungry are they?

Jot down a few notes about these possible triggers and let the doctor know. He or she may have advice on adjustments in your loved one’s routine, or perhaps an adjustment of medication will be prescribed. The more information you can provide for the doctor, the better.

You Can Do This

As we stated above, Parkinson’s is a cruel disease. Watching your loved one slowly transform as the disease takes over can be devastating, confusing, and exhausting. But with the right information, you can offer better care and add additional comfort.

Remember to keep an open dialogue with the patient’s doctor and ask for support. There are a variety of organizations for this, including Power Over Parkinson’s and the Parkinson’s Foundation.

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