How Should You React to Alzheimer’s Confusion?

family caregiver helping senior with Alzheimer's confusion
When a senior is experiencing Alzheimer’s confusion, it is often best to ask questions to better understand what they are needing or feeling.

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

Seniors with Alzheimer’s disease often have difficulty expressing themselves, and in some cases their alternate reality is more related to a need or feeling they are trying to express than it has to do with the words they are saying.

For example:

  • “When will my wife be coming home?” This question might be more about the need for affection or acceptance or a home-cooked meal than it could be about wishing to see his wife, who passed away many years ago. An appropriate reaction to find out more might be, “Why would you like to see her?”
  • “I need to take all these casseroles to our neighbors before the end of the day.” Despite the fact that these casseroles do not really exist, the words may represent a need for meaning and purpose in daily life or wanting to be engaged in an activity. An appropriate response to figure out more could be, “Why did you make casseroles for our neighbors?”

Keeping a log of these types of events can help you notice a pattern in the older person’s Alzheimer’s confusion. The more you listen in and pay close attention, the easier it will be to perceive the thinking behind the alternate reality and the best way to act in response.

Is It Okay to Play Along?

As long as the scenario is not going to be unsafe or unacceptable, it is perfectly fine to go along with the older person’s alternate realities caused by Alzheimer’s. Doing this isn’t going to make the dementia worse. Keep in mind, the person’s reality is accurate to him/her and playing along can make the senior feel more comfortable.

If the scenario is inappropriate or might cause harm to the older person, try to react to the perceived need while redirecting your loved one to something safer or more appropriate.

Bear in mind the following 3 actions:

  1. Reassure the older adult.
  2. React to his/her need.
  3. Redirect if required.

Also, call on the caregiving team at Heaven at Home Senior Care, providers of specialized Alzheimer’s care in Denton, TX and the surrounding areas. Our care staff are here to provide compassionate, professional respite care services for family caregivers who could use some time away to refresh and recharge. Reach out to us any time to learn more at (940) 380-0500.