Caregiver Tips: Calming a Confused Senior with Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease
Ease stress and frustration through assisted living techniques
For seniors in the early stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss is common. While the rest of their cognitive abilities may still be strong, remembering names, places, and words become difficult. They may become frustrated at this new-found confusion, agitated that they are unable to recall familiar things. As their disease progresses seniors with dementia will have increased confusion, leading to agitation, panic, and even aggression.
As a family member or primary caregiver for a person with severe memory loss, these episodes of confusion can be alarming. Seeing a loved one frightened by newly unfamiliar surroundings is heartbreaking. If you find yourself wishing you could do more to calm and console your loved one, there are support and resources available. Assisted living professionals who interact with and care for residents with severe dementia and Alzheimer’s have advice for family members and loved ones of seniors with dementia.
What causes agitation in dementia and Alzheimer’s patients?
Dementia is a progressive disease and over time it causes brain cells to deteriorate. It is this deterioration that dementia symptoms including memory loss, confusion, agitation, restlessness, and fatigue. Because there is not yet a cure for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, there is nothing that can be done to stop or reverse this deterioration.
However, environmental factors can exacerbate their symptoms. Being aware of your loved one’s surroundings, daily routine, preferences, and triggers can help you maintain a comforting environment for them. Change is a major cause of confusion and agitation in dementia patients. Their world is becoming increasingly unfamiliar to them and seemingly small changes can disrupt the comfort of their daily routine.
Common environmental changes that affect behavior include:
- Being suddenly admitted to a hospital or assisted living facility
- Changes in scheduled caregiving
- New visitors or too many people visiting at once
- Confrontation or perceived threats [Source]
Tips to Prevent Confusion
While you can try to monitor the daily situations and interactions your loved one faces, ultimately you cannot control the world around them. Accidents and emergencies happen. Being prepared to respond, console and care for a confused senior is the best way to support their well-being.
Assisted living professionals offer the following tips to family members seeking to prevent confusion and agitation:
Create a calm environment
Being overstimulated by loud talking, commotion, and unfamiliar faces causes stress for seniors with dementia. Having a quiet space that is comfortable can provide refuge to an overwhelmed loved one. Comfort objects such as blankets or clothing items can provide a distraction and added security.
Monitor personal comfort and any additional symptoms
Make sure your loved one has taken their medications properly. Ensuring that they have eaten, had enough water to drink, and received adequate sleep is also important. Being vigilant about personal care can help seniors with dementia be more comfortable.
Avoid surprises and sudden changes in routine when possible
We have learned that change is a major cause of confusion and agitation for seniors with dementia. As your loved one’s illness progresses, there may come a time when they need professional care. Before moving your loved one into an assisted living facility, consider part-time care or adult day care options. If these options are introduced in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, your loved one has the opportunity to familiarize themselves with caregivers and become comfortable in surroundings outside the home.
For more information about adult day care as a transition into full-time assisted living, read our “Why Adult Day Care is Important” article.
How to Respond to A Confused Senior
Even if you do everything within your power to provide a comfortable, safe environment for your loved one, the nature of the disease makes confusion and agitation inevitable. Know that you are not responsible and that help is available for you both.
Follow these 4 Steps to Responding to a Confused Senior with Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease:
- Listen to frustrations – Validate their emotions and sympathize with their situation.
- Provide reassurance – Although you may not understand, provide comfort and reassurance. Trying to reason with a confused senior may not be affective because their brain simply doesn’t process information the way a healthy brain would. Make sure they know they are safe and that you support them.
- Modify the situation – If they seem agitated by loud sounds, try moving to a quiet area. In overwhelming situations filled with new faces or places, distraction can be helpful. Give your loved on a task to focus on, something simple like folding towels, buttoning a sweater, or completing a puzzle. Occupying their mind with something other than confusion can ease behavioral symptoms.
- Share your experience – Speaking with your loved one medical professional or assisted living care providers is essential. These specialists will be able to alter medications or therapy plans and provide advice on how to respond in the future. [Source]
Know Where to Find Help
As your loved one’s disease progresses, you may need additional support and help providing adequate memory care. Preparing for this reality in advance is beneficial to both you and your senior loved one. Trained assisted living professionals are able to meet the unique needs of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.
To learn more about memory care and how specialized care can help, please call ComfortCare Home of Wichita at (316) 444-0532.