It can come seemingly out of nowhere: you place your loved one’s favorite tuna sandwich in front of her – light on the mayo, no onions – something that usually brings her pleasure. But today, she pushes the plate away and refuses to take a bite, insisting that you’ve poisoned the food.
Or, you’ve provided the senior with a meaningful activity that links her to an important time in her past career, sorting paperwork. Suddenly, she accuses you of tampering with the documents in order to steal money from her bank account.
As a dementia caregiver, how can you most effectively diffuse situations such as these, which are brought on by the delusions or hallucinations that are so common in individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia?
- Maintain a controlled, gentle, understanding tone. It may be instinctive to become defensive and deny the accusation, but appropriate responses might include something like, “I see that you feel afraid, but I won’t let anything bad happen to you. Let’s enjoy this sandwich together,” or, “Oh no, are you missing some money? The bank isn’t open right now, but let’s go there first thing tomorrow and get it straightened out.”
- Move into a welcomed distraction. After sharing in the senior’s concern, transition into a pleasant topic or activity that the senior enjoys, or move to another area. In the case of the suspected food poisoning, you could engage the senior in going into the kitchen and helping her prepare a new sandwich. If you’ve reassured the senior that you’ll visit the bank together tomorrow, a walk outside to look at the flowers and birds, or playing some favorite music, may help.
- Never argue or try to reason. These tactics tend to escalate agitation in someone with dementia. It may take some trial and error to develop the strategy that works best, and that strategy may need to change from one day to the next. The goal is to stay calm, patient, and empathetic, validating the senior’s feelings and providing comfort.
CareWorks Health Services’ caregiving professionals 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 enjoy a higher quality of life, and providing family caregivers with relief and peace of mind. Contact us today at (949) 859-4700 to learn more about our Huntington Beach senior services or to request additional resources to help you better care for a loved one with dementia. For a full list of all of the areas we serve, please visit our Service Area page.