It may come seemingly out of nowhere: you present your loved one’s favorite tuna sandwich on the table – light on the mayo, no onions – something that typically brings her joy. But this day, she forces the plate away and will not take a bite, insisting that you’ve poisoned the food.
Or, you’ve presented the individual with a meaningful activity that links her to an important time in her past career, organizing paperwork. Suddenly, she accuses you of tampering with the documents so that you can steal money from her banking account.
How might you most successfully diffuse situations such as false dementia accusations, that are resulting from the delusions or hallucinations which happen to be so common in dementia?
- Keep a controlled, soothing, understanding tone. It might be instinctive to become defensive and deny the accusation, but appropriate responses might include something such as, “I see that you feel frightened, but I will not let anything bad happen to you. Let’s enjoy this food together,” or, “Oh no, are you missing some money? Your bank isn’t open currently, but let’s go there first thing tomorrow to get it figured out.”
- Move into a welcomed diversion. After sharing in the older adult’s concern, shift into a pleasant subject or activity that the senior enjoys, or move to another area. With regards to the suspected food poisoning, you could engage your senior loved one in going to the kitchen and helping her prepare a new sandwich. If you’ve reassured the individual that you will go to the bank together tomorrow, a walk outside to look at the flowers and birds, or playing some favorite music, could help.
- Never try to reason or argue. These tactics tend to escalate agitation in someone with dementia. It could take some experimentation to develop the approach that works best, and that strategy may have 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.
Seniorcorp’s home care professionals are fully trained and experienced in effective, creative Alzheimer’s care techniques, and can assist with managing challenging behaviors and situations such as false dementia accusations, allowing your loved one to enjoy a greater quality of life, and providing family caregivers with relief and peace of mind. Contact us online or at (757) 640-0557 to learn more about our dementia care and at home senior services in Suffolk, VA and the surrounding areas.