Approximately 20% of older people with dementia manifest visual or auditory hallucinations. In order to effectively diagnose and treat these individuals, the etiology of hallucinations must be addressed; however, there has been very limited research in this area. There is an association between vision loss and hallucinations, and analyses of case studies suggest other potential etiologies. Accordingly, hallucinations can occur when the person with dementia either misinterprets reality, experiences sensory deprivation, is exposed to inappropriate sensory stimulation, has delirium/medical problems, or when his/her behaviour is misinterpreted due to cultural differences with caregivers. Understanding the etiology of hallucinations will assist in developing an appropriate nonpharmacological treatment, which may improve quality of life.
Key words: hallucinations, dementia, etiology, nonpharmacological, treatment.