Objective: The authors tested the relationship of hallucinations and delusions to mortality in Alzheimer disease (AD).
Methods: A group of 407 persons with clinically diagnosed AD completed a uniform clinical evaluation, after which vital status was monitored for a mean of 3.7 years. At the initial evaluation, a previously established, structured, informant interview was used to ascertain the presence of hallucinations and delusional thinking. The evaluation also included a structured medical history, inspection of all medications, and detailed assessment of cognitive functioning and parkinsonian signs.
Results: At study onset, hallucinations were present in 41.0% of participants and delusions in 54.4%. During follow-up, 146 deaths occurred. In a proportional-hazards model adjusted for age, sex, race, and education, hallucinations were associated with a 78% increase in risk of death. The association was not substantially altered in subsequent analyses that controlled for level of cognitive impairment, severity of parkinsonism, use of antipsychotic medications, and the presence of chronic medical conditions. Risk of death was more than doubled in those with both auditory and visual hallucinations. By contrast, we did not find evidence of an association of delusions with mortality.
Conclusion: Hallucinations are associated with an increased risk of death in AD.