Caregiver Tips for Coping with Delusions
As people's memory, and sometimes hearing, fails it is not uncommon for them to become suspicious of what is going on around them. Suspicions can sometimes become so fixed that they are described as a delusion or delusions. The most common delusions are persecutory and often lead to false accusations.
The delusions people have may be about one situation or you may have to cope with multiple delusions, although in my experience this is more unusual in people with Alzheimer's. People with delusions may think you are stealing their clothes, belongings or money. They may think you are poisoning their food or drinks. You may be accused of being an imposter rather than their wife/husband/daughter.
It is distressing for both of you. But what you have to remember is that a delusion isa fixed, false belief. It remains even in the light of contradictory evidence. Your husband could accuse you of stealing his watch even when you show him the item.
So how do you help your loved one and what can caregivers do to minimize the impact of delusions on day to day life?
First, and most importantly, you must have your loved one correctly diagnosed, treated and regularly medically reviewed. Caregivers are very important to this process and they can tell the medical team about the patient's behavior, thought content expressed through conversation, and behvior in social situations. Changes in sleep patterns, fluid and food intake, ill health and infection need to be reported and appropriately treated.
Inform his/her doctor of any marked changes or deterioration in their mental or physical condition. Medications can sometimes have side effects so these need to be closely monitored and you, the caregiver, are the conduit and advocate for your relative or patient.
- Remember that delusions are 'fixed'. This means any attempt to argue the case only causes more distress to everyone.
- Sometimes the person may actually be correct, so don't assume delusional talk affects all aspects of their life.
Sometimes reassurance is sufficient to reduce concerns, reduce problems behavior.At other times you can try distraction. For example:
- Ask a question that you feel sure they will have a view on
- Read out a section from the newspaper that is interesting, ask for a comment on a nearby photo
- Ask if they will help you with some task
- Ask them the time, point out a picture and ask a question about it, comment on the weather outside and what sort of weather they like. Using questions, pictures that you know interested them before can help.
- The nature of delusions and the way you cope with them will vary from person to person and also need to be adapted to the stage of Alzheimer's. It can be useful to get ideas from healthcare professionals or your Alzheimer's Chapter or support group.
More information on reducing agitation in Alzheimer's disease