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What to Do When Seniors Experience Dementia Confusion

Grandson and grandfather walking together outside
CareFor can help ease the stresses that come with dementia confusion and caring for a senior with Alzheimer’s.

Dementia confusion, a typical occurrence in Alzheimer’s, can lead to recent memories being forgotten about or distorted, while memories from the more distant past usually remain unimpaired. This can cause prior periods of time to be more realistic to an older adult with dementia than the present. A person’s alternate reality can be his or her way of making sense of the present through past experiences.

Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease commonly have problems expressing themselves, and at times their alternate reality is more related to a need or a particular feeling they are trying to express than it has to do with the words they are saying.

For example:

• “What time will my wife be home?” This question could be more about his/her need for affection or acceptance or a home-cooked meal than it could be about wanting to see his wife, who died a number of years ago. An appropriate reaction to find out more might be, “Why do you need to see her?”

• “I need to bring all these casseroles to our neighbors before the end of the afternoon.” Despite the fact that these casseroles do not really exist, the words may indicate a need for meaning and purpose in day-to-day life or wanting to be involved in an activity. A suitable response to determine more could be, “Why did you decide to make casseroles for your neighbors?”

Maintaining a diary of these kinds of events can help you notice a pattern in the senior’s dementia confusion. The more you tune in and pay close attention, the easier it will become to recognize the thinking behind the alternate reality and the most effective way to act in response.

Is It Okay to Play Along?

Providing the situation isn’t going to be harmful or improper, it is perfectly fine to play along with the older person’s alternate reality. Doing this is not going to make the dementia worse. Bear in mind, the senior’s reality is accurate to him/her and playing along can make your loved one feel more comfortable.

If the situation is inappropriate or may possibly cause harm to the senior, try to respond to the perceived need while redirecting your loved one to something less dangerous or more appropriate.

Keep in mind the following three steps:

1. Reassure the senior.

2. Respond to his/her need.

3. Redirect if necessary.

And, call on the caregiving team at CareFor for skilled Alzheimer’s care. Our care professionals are on hand to offer compassionate, professional respite care services for family care providers who could use some time away to rest and recharge. Reach out to us any time at (512) 338-4533 to learn more about our in home care services in Austin and the surrounding area. For more information about all of the different areas we serve in Texas, please see our Service Area page.

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