August 12, 2020
It can come seemingly out of the blue: you place your loved one’s favorite tuna sandwich in front of her – light on the mayo, no onions – something which typically brings her joy. But this day, she pushes the plate away and refuses to take a bite, insisting that you’ve poisoned the sandwich.
Or, you’ve provided your loved one with a meaningful activity that links her to a significant time in her past career, organizing paperwork. Suddenly, she charges you with meddling with the documents to steal money from her checking account.
How can you most successfully diffuse situations like these, which are the result of the delusions or hallucinations which can be so typical in Alzheimer’s? We have some advice for dementia caregivers to effectively manage this difficult topic.
- Maintain a calm, caring, understanding tone. It might be instinctive to become defensive and renounce the accusation, but appropriate replies may include something such as, “I realize that you are feeling afraid, but I will not let anything bad happen to you. Let’s enjoy this sandwich together,” or, “Oh no, have you lost some money? The bank is not open at the moment, but let’s go there first thing tomorrow and get it figured out.”
- Move into a welcomed diversion. After sharing in the older adult’s concern, shift into a pleasant topic or activity that the senior enjoys, or move to another area. With regards to the suspected food poisoning, you can engage the person in going into the kitchen and helping her prepare a fresh sandwich. If you have reassured the individual that you will visit the bank together tomorrow, a walk outside to view the flowers and birds, or playing some favorite music, could help.
- Never try to reason or argue. These approaches have been found to escalate agitation in someone with Alzheimer’s. It could take some trial and error to develop the approach that is best, and that strategy might need to differ from one day to another. The aim is to stay calm, patient, and empathetic, confirming the older adult’s feelings and providing comfort.
Continuum’s St. Louis Alzheimer’s care experts are fully trained and experienced in creative, effective dementia care techniques, and can help with managing difficult behaviors and situations, allowing your loved one to experience a greater quality of life, and providing family caregivers with relief and peace of mind. Call us today at (314) 863-9912 to inquire about some additional resources to help you better care for a senior loved one with dementia, or to see if our services are available in your area.