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Alzheimer's Disease

Can Auditory Hallucinations be Treated?

03/09/2011

Question:

What can be prescribed for my 84 yr. old mother who hears another woman`s voice in her home and believes it to be the girlfriend of my father and has threatened to kill them both? She has tried lexapro and Namenda with no success.

Answer:

False beliefs or hallucinations, such as described, are not uncommon in certain dementing conditions. Unless family members identify instances that the patient states that she hears this girlfriend right at that instant, these are best described as delusions. These type of complaints are usually best treated by medications known as atypical antipsychotics. Care should be taken to explain all the potential side effects of these medications to the patient and family. However, most patients tolerate them very well and they can be very effective to relieve the false beliefs and improve quality of life for the patient and husband. If not contraindicated, these medications should be started at a low dose and gradually increased until the symptoms are diminished or unless side effects are noted. I have found that quetiapine or ziprasidone are tolerated well in most demented patients and could be tried first.

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Response by:

Douglas W Scharre, MD Douglas W Scharre, MD
Clinical Associate Professor of Neurology
Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University