Responding to Confusion in Dementia

Caregivers are life jugglers. When they care for a person living with dementia (PWD) they certainly need to know how to respond to dementia and confusion that comes with it. It seems a little hard to know the tips and tricks of this job description, which is why it is important to be constantly reading about the subject or talk to other fellow caregivers.

Let’s try some empathy, get in the shoes of a PWD… You wake up in a place that seems like your home, although looks like someone painted the walls overnight and moved some furniture, looks good but it would have been nice to be notified about these sudden changes. You find you have some difficulties moving around, you feel more tired than normal… Then things tend to get a little weirder, you walk into your living room and the TV is gone, now there is this strange-looking screen placed on the wall like if it were a painting, everything is starting to get more and more confusing… You walk into your kitchen for a glass of water and you encounter a familiar looking lady who says “good morning Mom!, did you sleep well?”, Mom? Whose mom? Your child is only 12 years old and should be getting ready to go to school! Now everything is a blur, what is happening?!?

As much as someone tries to explain to you what is going on, it will be hard to understand that your reality is not the one you thought you were living in. The person who talks to you must use a well structure strategy to provide a reassuring environment and not “freak you out” even more.

Patience and understanding are the key elements caregivers use to start working on ways to help a confused PWD. There is a big relevance on knowing what to expect and how to react. These confusion circumstances that involve memory loss are hard to endure for both patient and caregiver and it s critical to respond properly.

The phases of confusion and memory loss are more common in the later stages of dementia, although they can be mild experiences in earlier stages like not being able to recall certain events or decisions. When memory loss becomes more stern, situations like the one described above are almost an everyday event. Feeling unsure about the place, the time of day or family members are only a few examples. More basic things like knowing what a spoon is for could become a challenge of acceptance by the PWD, caregiver and family members.

As a caregiver you can help. First, try the key element mentioned at the beginning… Empathy. Understand what he or she is going through before you lose patience and become frustrated yourself (a big No No!).

The Alzheimer’s Association provides seven steps to follow when a situation like this emerges:

  1. Stay calm. It may be painful to not be remembered by your own mother or close relative but remind yourself it is not on purpose or because they love you less.
  2. Respond with a brief explanation. Keep it simple, do not provide too much detail or reasons.
  3. Show photos and other reminders. These are thought-provoking and very helpful.
  4. Travel with the person to where he or she is in time. Be their connection to the present as they remember other times.
  5. Offer corrections as suggestions. Be tactful as you remind them what a thing is used for or the name of a relative.
  6. Try not to take it personally. Deep down they remember they love you and have you in their thoughts, keep that in mind even if they treat you as a stranger.
  7. Share your experience with others. There are plenty of support groups either at your local Alzheimer’s community or online groups like the twitter chats: #AlzChat #DMSHealth or #DiverseAlz

Related Read:

Understanding Sundown in Dementia

Cope with Dementia: Not an easy task