According to the Alzheimer's Association, "delusions (firmly held beliefs in things that are not real) may occur in middle- to late-stage Alzheimer's. Confusion and memory loss — such as the inability to remember certain people or objects — can contribute to these untrue beliefs."
Suspicions of theft, infidelity, or other inappropriate behaviour can become quite common with those with Alzheimer's and Dementia and are more often referred to as paranoia. Although not rooted in reality, those feelings are very real to the person with Dementia. These feelings may cause the person to become fearful or even jealous. At times, the paranoia is so real, they may even call 9-1-1 or other emergency services to voice their concern.
Individuals with Dementia are trying to make sense of the world in which they now live. Confusion, memory loss and a decline in cognitive abilities contribute to these suspicions and are typically the underlying cause of their fears and distrust.
How to respond
The Alzheimer's Association recommends these non-medical interventions.
Assess the situation. If the delusion or paranoia does not harm themselves or others, it's best to ignore rather than continue the discussion which may cause further stress.
Offer reassurance. Reassure the person with kind words or a gentle touch. Acknowledge by saying "I know you are worried" and tell them you are here to help.
Use distraction. Suggest that they come for a walk with you or sit with you in another room, perhaps for a meal. Providing comfort with a well-lit room may also provide a sense of calm and reduce the shadows that may cause some of their fears.
Don't take offense. Listen to what is troubling the person, and try to understand that reality. Then be reassuring, and let the person know you care.
Don't argue or try to convince. Allow the individual to express ideas. Acknowledge his or her opinions.
Offer a simple answer. Share your thoughts with the individual, but keep it simple. Don't overwhelm the person with lengthy explanations or reasons.
Switch the focus to another activity. Engage the individual in an activity, or ask for help with a chore.
Duplicate any lost items. If the person is often searching for a specific item, have several available. For example, if the individual is always looking for his or her wallet, purchase two of the same kind.
If someone you love has feelings of delusions or paranoia, or even hallucinations, it's best to seek professional medical advice. Know that you are not alone. Connect with others in group or community groups to help you with a variety of interventions and strategies to help you and your loved one manage this disease and its symptoms.
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