Psychosis in Late-Stage Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system. It affects movement and often includes tremors, stiffness, and difficulty with balance. However, many people with Parkinson’s disease also develop mental health symptoms, including depression, anxiety, and psychosis.
Psychosis is a mental health condition best described as a disconnection from reality. Symptoms include hallucinations and delusions. In the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, between 20 and 40 percent of people will have symptoms of psychosis. But as Parkinson’s disease progresses to late-stage, up to 70 percent of patients will experience psychosis.
Symptoms of Psychosis
Hallucinations are best described as seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, or feeling things that aren’t real. These can be pleasant experiences like the smell of baking bread or they can be more disturbing like the feeling of bugs crawling on your body.
Delusions are the belief in something that isn’t real. Delusions often include paranoid thoughts that someone has betrayed you or people are out to get you. Delusions feel real and can lead to violent reactions.
How to Treat Parkinson’s Psychosis
Parkinson’s psychosis can be caused by changes in the brain chemistry caused by Parkinson’s disease. But it can also be caused by the medications that treat Parkinson’s disease. Because of this, treatment for psychosis will begin with adjustments to the patient’s current medications to find a combination that improves movement without causing symptoms of psychosis.
If this adjustment in medication doesn’t work, an antipsychotic medication may be added.
Caring for a Loved One with Parkinson’s Psychosis
When a loved one is experiencing psychosis, it is important to be patient and avoid arguing with them.
In some cases, your loved one may still have the insight to recognize that these thoughts and feelings are not real. If so, you can explain the reality to them. If they do not have this insight, it is not productive to try to convince them otherwise; instead, you should try to remain reassuring and calm.
Be sure that your loved one cannot access anything dangerous when experiencing psychosis and keep the home free of clutter to prevent triggers, falls, and injuries.
Work closely with your loved one’s doctors to adjust medications as needed. It can also be helpful to check if eyeglasses or hearing aids are needed and to keep the home well-lit at night. Difficulty in vision and hearing can sometimes trigger hallucinations.
Palliative care can provide added support to family caregivers caring for a loved one with Parkinson’s disease. To learn more about how Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care supports patients with Parkinson’s disease, please call 1-888-564-3405.
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