Learning from and Responding to Confusion Caused by Alzheimer’s

Caregiver walking with a senior.

Responding appropriately to confusion caused by Alzheimer’s can improve the quality of life for all family members.

Confusion caused by Alzheimer’s can lead to recent memories being forgotten or distorted, while memories from the more remote past frequently remain intact. This can cause more distant situations to make more sense to an older person with dementia than the present. A person’s alternate reality could be the senior’s way of making sense of the present through past memories.

Seniors with Alzheimer’s disease frequently experience challenges with expressing themselves, and at times their alternate reality has more to do with a need or a distinct feeling they are attempting to express than it has to do with the words they are saying.

For example:

  • “What time will my wife be home?” This question might be more about a need for affection or acceptance or a home-cooked meal than it could be about desiring to see his wife, who passed away a number of years ago. An appropriate reaction to uncover more might be, “Why do you want to see her?”
  • “I need to take all these casseroles to our neighbors before the end of the day.” Though these casseroles do not really exist, the words could actually imply a need for purpose in daily life or wanting to be involved in an activity. A good response to learn more could be, “Why did you make casseroles for the neighbors?”

Keeping a diary of these sorts of events may help you observe a pattern in the confusion caused by Alzheimer’s. The more you tune in and pay close attention, the easier it will become to understand the thinking behind the alternate reality and the best way to respond.

Is It Acceptable to Play Along?

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

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

Keep in mind the following three steps:

  1. Reassure the older adult.
  2. Respond to his/her need.
  3. Redirect if necessary.

Also, call on the caregiving team at Advanced Home Health Care for a customized, highly skilled, Alzheimer’s care plan. Our care professionals are readily available to provide compassionate, professional respite care services for family caregivers who would benefit from taking personal time to refresh and recharge. Contact us any time at 800.791.7785 to learn more about our Burlington, IA senior care services and the surrounding areas we serve in Des Moines, Henry, Louisa, and Van Buren counties.

The Care You Need. The Quality You Deserve.