Dementia confusion, a typical occurrence in Alzheimer’s, can result in recent memories being forgotten or altered, while those from the more remote past often remain intact. This can cause previous occasions to make more sense to a senior with dementia than the present. A person’s alternative reality may be the senior’s way of making sense of the present through past memories.
Seniors with Alzheimer’s disease very often have difficulty expressing themselves, and sometimes their alternate reality has more to do with a requirement or a particular feeling they are trying to express than it has to do with the words they are saying.
- “When is my wife going to be home?” This question could 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 died a number of years ago. An effective reaction to find out more might be, “Why do you want to see her?”
- “I need to deliver all these casseroles to our neighbors before the end of the afternoon.” Despite the fact that these casseroles do not really exist, the words could perhaps represent a need for purpose in daily life or wanting to be engaged in an activity. An appropriate response to learn more could be, “Why did you make casseroles for the neighbors?”
Keeping a log of these types of events may help you observe a pattern in the older person’s dementia confusion. 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 is not going to be dangerous or improper, it is perfectly fine to play along with the senior’s alternate reality. Doing this isn’t going to make the dementia worse. Bear 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 may possibly cause harm to the older person, try to react to the perceived need while redirecting him/her to something less unsafe or more appropriate.
Bear in mind the following 3 steps:
- Reassure the senior.
- Respond to his/her need.
- Redirect if required.
Also, call on the caregiving team at Harmony Home Health & Hospice, the leaders in dementia and hospice home care in Salt Lake City and surrounding areas. Our care staff are here to provide compassionate, professional respite care services for family caregivers who could use some time to rest and recharge. Contact us any time to learn more about our services at 1-877-I-NEED-CARE (1-877-463-3322).