Caregiving Monday: Reasoning with Alzheimer’s

often Alzheimer's patients suffer from hallucinations and paranoia
often Alzheimer’s patients suffer from hallucinations and paranoia

For a while, GG had hallucinations, until her medicines were changed.  We tried to explain to her that although we believed her, we could not see the children she saw.  She would look at us like we’d lost our minds.  In time, we discovered sometimes the best thing was to go along and talk with the children and tell them to leave.  This seemed to suit her much better.

Alzheimer’s is a very difficult disease on everyone involved.  Hallucinations, past memory regression, and an alternate reality will often appear to the patient.   As caregivers we often want to reason with them, but this often causes our loved one to become more agitated, frustrated and even explosive at times.

One thing I learned in my training as a caregiving is telling “Therapeutic lies.”  The term is defined as the practice of deliberately deceiving patients for reasons considered in their best interest.” {from]

So how do we reason with Alzheimer’s?

Finding the window to help Alzheimer's deal with their reality
Finding the window to help Alzheimer’s deal with their reality
  1. Pick your battles—is this really worth fighting over?
  2. There is no need upsetting the patient—if they think a parent or sibling is still alive go along with it. Maybe use generic answers such as “we’ll see them later, they are working, etc.”
  3. If telling the truth is going to be more detrimental or traumatic to the individual
  4. Try redirecting the individual and getting their mind on something more positive {or different}
  5. Understanding when the patient may need to talk about an issue and listening, such as when they are grieving.
  6. Try to use methods that will relieve anxiety and stress
  7. Ask questions to gain more information. For example if the individual thinks she is 21 and single, ask questions about her life at that time {what does she enjoy doing, is she dating anyone, what year is it, who does she live with, where does she work/go to school, etc.}.  This gives a glimpse into her lives back then and you’ll be amazed at what you may discover.
  8. Music is often soothing and may calm the patient
  9. How can you handle a situation without demeaning, hurting or embarrassing the patient?
We have to find a new normal
We have to find a new normal

Remember, that often it takes trial and error to discover what works.  When dealing with this disease you have to think fast on your feet.  What works one time may not work the next.  I’ve even discovered that what works for one individual may not work for another.

The main thing to remember is that when reasoning with Alzheimer’s strive to calm the patient and help him/her deal with the stress and frustration that is being felt.

How have you reasoned with Alzheimer’s?

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