The AgingCare.com forum is filled with people coming together to share valuable information. We’ve compiled experienced caregivers’ best suggestions for dealing with confusion and frustration when providing care for a loved one with dementia.
Dealing with Dementia-Related Confusion
“The early stages can be particularly frustrating for the caregiver. This is all new to you and you are not used to it. In addition, early on, the lack of logic is not yet severe or constant enough to keep you focused on it. My husband had Lewy Body Dementia, and we called it ‘Lewy.’ (We both got mad at Lewy from time to time.) I would say, ‘Yes, of course you can carry a food tray. You’ve done it for decades! But we can’t trust what ol’ Lewy is going to do today. How about I carry your tray and you can bring the newspaper?’ I always wanted to assure him that his impairments were not his fault.
I also often said something like, ‘You have an excellent brain, dear. You have an impressive education and you were a successful engineer. That excellent brain just isn’t working at full capacity right now, so I’ll help you for the time being.’ When we went to a new appointment, he would cheerfully announce, ‘Jeanne comes with me. She’s my memory.’ It is a very fine line balancing between helping and taking over. Don’t feel bad if you don’t always get it right.” –jeannegibbs
“The hardest lesson I had to learn while dealing with my parents (Dad has vascular dementia and Mom has Alzheimer’s) was to NOT take things personally. Those of us with existing relationships (whether with a spouse or a parent) need to rewire a lot of that early and lifetime programming! That was incredibly difficult for me, because my parents are changing while I remain the same. In other words, it’s hard to keep up and your strategy needs to keep evolving. At some point, when it got to be too much for me to internalize, I chose to surrender. Now, when Mom says or implies ‘It’s all your fault,’ I simply agree. This makes her laugh, as if she has ‘won’ the argument. It doesn’t make any sense, yet it works. I love the idea of giving the disease a name and directing blame there. Use whatever works! Keeping a sense of humor is always helpful.” –LorrieB
“In the early days with my husband’s dementia, I often found it helpful to let him have control by allowing him to decide between two possibilities. For example, ‘Let’s get the bills paid today. Do you want to write the checks and I’ll record what we pay?’ Timing is useful. I would ask this just before a football game, which gave him an incentive to ask me to do the task on my own so he could watch TV. This way I gave him the option for control and the finances did not get screwed up. Be creative. Sometimes the choices I offered are one easy and one somewhat obnoxious. The outcome is more predictable, but they still feel some sense of control.” –bluecube
“My Dad has mild-to-moderate dementia. I have POA and access to funds to pay bills, etc. My dad thinks he’s just fine. I don’t try to convince him otherwise, because it’s just no use. I was able to get him to sign the POA and banking papers under the guise of ‘if anything should ever happen to you.’
I take care of all the bills and finances, but Dad thinks Mom does it. Neither are capable of these tasks at this point. I would never get anything done trying to reason with Dad or get his approval. I just do it and fib when I have to. I’ve been fibbing quite a bit over the last couple of years. There’s just no other way.
Depending on your loved one’s level of dementia, this may not work. However, there might be a way to make them think they’re in control. This is the worst place to be with elders. They are not competent any longer in a practical sense but they’re still LEGALLY competent. It forces us as caregivers to be especially clever. There’s no shame in this. Do what ya gotta do.” –Windyridge
“Not everyone recognizes that they have a problem. Your loved one may be forgetful, but they may not recognize the issue. I worked for an Alzheimer’s center once. Originally, our shirts said ‘Center for Alzheimer’s Disease.’ One day a patient had a breakdown when she realized she was going to the center because she had Alzheimer’s. We changed the shirts immediately.” –magnoliasouth
“We can’t tell our loved ones with dementia to straighten up and fly right. They have absolutely no control over their behavior and aren’t even aware of it. Dementia is a kind of brain damage and little can be done to change it. However, there are a few useful tips and tricks for dealing with someone with dementia. Redirection is one of them. When the person is obsessing, repeating the same thing or maybe on the verge of becoming agitated, find something else for them to focus on in that moment. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t. While it may not sound like much, it is draining (mentally and physically) to keep someone with dementia redirected. Trying to reason with them is futile because they don’t have the ability to reason anymore. If they insist that the sky is red, trying to explain to them that it’s actually blue will take up your entire day because they can’t understand. It’s just easier on us if we say, “Oh yes, what a lovely shade of red,” and then move on. You don’t have to throw up your hands and refuse to deal with it, but understand that you won’t solve it either.” –Eyerishlass