family caregiver with senior

Tips to Help Family Caregivers Navigate Dementia Confusion in a Loved One

Dementia confusion, a common occurrence in Alzheimer’s, can lead to recent memories being forgotten or distorted, while those from the more remote past continue to be intact. This can cause prior occasions to make more sense to an older person with dementia than the present. A person’s alternate reality can be his or her way of making sense of the present through past memories.

Seniors with Alzheimer’s disease commonly have difficulty expressing themselves, and sometimes their alternate reality has more to do with a requirement or a specific feeling they are trying to express than it has to do with the words they are saying.

For example:

  • “When is my wife going to be home?” This question might be more about the senior’s need for affection or acceptance or a home cooked dinner than it could be about desiring to see his wife, who died a number of years ago. An appropriate reaction to discover more might be, “Why do you want to see her?”
  • “I need to bring all these casseroles to our neighbors before the end of the afternoon.” Even though these casseroles do not exist, the words may imply a need for purpose in day-to-day life or wanting to be involved in an activity. An appropriate reply to learn more could be, “Why did you make casseroles for our neighbors?”

Maintaining a journal of these sorts of events may help you identify a pattern in the older person’s dementia confusion. The more you listen in and pay close attention, the easier it will become to understand the thinking behind the alternate reality and the ideal way to react.

Is It Acceptable to Play Along?

Provided the situation is not going to be dangerous or inappropriate, it is perfectly fine to go along with your loved one’s alternate reality. Doing so will not make the dementia worse. Keep in mind, the senior’s reality is accurate to him/her and playing along can make the senior feel more comfortable.

If the scenario is inappropriate or could possibly cause harm to the older adult, try to react to the perceived need while redirecting him/her to something safer or more appropriate.

Keep in mind the following three actions:

  1. Reassure the senior loved one.
  2. React to his/her need.
  3. Redirect if required.

Also, call on Complete Care at Home, providers of senior care in Montecito and the surrounding areas. Our caregivers are available to provide compassionate, professional dementia care and respite care services for family members who could use some time away to rest and recharge. Contact us any time to learn more at 805-727-3445. Please visit our Service Area page to learn more about the communities we serve.

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