Mother-in-law with Alzheimer's is very confused; what can we do to minimize her confusion?

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My MIL is very sweet but has ALZ which seems to be progressing quickly; she is becoming more frantic recently calling many times per day, asking what to do, saying she doesn't know where she is, she wants to go home, etc. Has lost the ability to read and strings together strange sets of words most of the time (word salad).
What non-reading things can we do to her environment (room in very nice ALF) to reassure her that she is home, she is safe, that we know where she is, haven't abandoned her (if we have been gone 3 minutes we were never there). I'd hang a sign in her room but she can't read anymore. Can't work the TV anymore, etc. Staff are good but cannot be with her constantly.

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This doesn't apply to all those who wants to go home - especially to the ones who Know that the ALF or NH (nursing home) is Not their home. But for those who have loss of memory, the 'going home' doesn't necessarily mean their real home, or their childhood home. Sometimes when they say this, it's because of how they're currently feeling - like fear, loneliness, pain, etc... You can acknowledge or distract them.

My mom, at one stage of her dementia, calmed down when we gave her baby doll. Well, she grabbed it from my little niece and refused to give up the doll. After that, whenever she became agitated, we would just gently lay the 'baby' on her lap. Mom would cradle her and calm down. But that was the mild stage. When she progressed to the violent stage, only meds can calm her. Mom had 9 children. So, even though she forgot most things, she did not forget how to calm down so as not to upset the baby.

Is there something that your mom used to love to do that you can implement in her room? If she used to knit a lot, can you decorate her room with knitted objects?
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I don't think you can do anything apart from get her a companion and maybe that means care in her own home if she still has one, or care with you if you can accommodate her and a companion - tall order I know. My mum has dementia but has similar behavioural issues, can no longer operate the TV, can read a little but not engage with a newspaper any more, watches the TV but thinks the characters are in the room with her. She lives with us but has her own lounge and both me and hubby work in our own studies (retired but still doing academic work). I have to arrange for visitors to sit with her during almost all her waking hours otherwise she would be forever banging on her lap top tray for me. One thing that she does watch quite happily is children's TV - it's all quite comforting and she doesn't get upset by it so that's worth a try. Good luck
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Hello: I think that maybe if you can bring to her room at the facility some of her things like pictures of family she used to have at her own house, or some of her porcelain figurines or knick knacks, maybe her personal items like maybe comforters, lamps, etc. This might ease the confusion and her fears that she is not home. My mother's room in my house has some pictures she had hanging in her own room before she came to live with us, we also brought her bedding and a crochet blanket she made a long time ago.
But unfortunately, from time to time, she does get agitated, she is very sure someone had called her to tell her they are coming to take her back home, so I lie to her and I tell her not to worry that "it's tomorrow when they will get here" and she accepts this and calms down. After a short while, she had forgotten all about it.
It's so difficult to see the confusion and fears people with this illnesses have, there is very little we can do to ease this fears. If you haven't tried what I've suggested, give it a try, it might help.
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There are medications that can help with her anxiety they make her seem sedated because she is but its better than her feeling frantic all the time.
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yes I agree with tryingtomakeit - I often tell my mum that we're going home later when she asks when we're doing that - I had a friend whose mum was in a care facility and she was constantly ringing him with the same problems. He used to say' OK I'm on my way - be with you soon' but tell the care home that this was just to calm his mum down and he wasn't really going to come. And sometimes this worked because it settled his mum for that very moment in time and she would forget that she was expecting him - only a partial remedy though because the 'going home' desire returns
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I have my Mom home with progressive dementia. She is always confused, more so in the early AM, but most always. She is always talking to her deceased siblings and she wants to go see them because they have called and asked her to come over. Her doctor said NOT to tell her they are dead. She calls me by name, but talks to me as if I'm her sister that she doesn't like. She is always going on road trips and comes home exhausted....lol She has a very nice BIG room with all the amenities, but always ask how her pictures and drapes are always every place she goes. I have to constantly tell her that this is her room and two seconds later she asks the same questions. There is really NOTHING you can do to minimize her confusion. Just be thankful that she is elsewhere and not at home. Taking care of a memory loss person 24-7 is NOT easy and very frustrating and stressful.
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This phase will pass soon and then she won't be able to tell you how confused she is. She is not "home" in her mind because "home" is where she grew up with her mother and father and siblings. That distant memory exists and nothing which is new will have any meaning for her. That is what is so painful for family members of loved ones to realize. There is nothing you can do for her except love her. Signs hung in rooms are no longer allowed due to HIPPA laws. I object to that when a person cannot hear, doesn't have their hearing aids in or won't wear them, and really cannot hear the conversation, but that is treading on a person's rights. I don't make laws...
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First, I'd start with the Director of Nursing at the ALF. What have they observed? Does she focus all of her anxiety on her family? If that's the case, and she's relatively calm and able to be engaged in some activity at the ALF when you're not there, then I'd feel comfortable limiting phone contact to once a day.

However, if the DON reports that your MIL appears to be suffering from anxiety a good bit of her waking hours, I'd try drugs. It's heartbreaking, not only for you, but also for the staff, to have a resident who can't be made comfortable.

As for activities, is she one who likes to fuss with things (like folding, sorting, etc)? If so, bring in lots of napkins and ask her to fold them for you. Or, buy a bunch of multicolored copy paper, mix it up and ask her to sort it. Bring the next 'job' with you when you visit. Some people can be content with a large stack of magazines to page through, even though they've lost the ability to read.
ps – The more, the better! Dozens of napkins, hundreds of sheets of paper, a foot-high stack of magazines...you get the picture.
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Reduce clutter, minimize her space. My Dad improved greatly when we moved him from his house to assisted living (about 1/8 of the space). Then improved again when he moved to the memory care ward (1/3 of the space of the Assisted living). Recently we de-cluttered his room, removed a lot of knick-knacks and extra photos and that has helped as well. Drugging him into oblivion is not an option in my mind because then he loses his ability to be active. A non-active mind and body declines even faster.
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Some excellent insight in these comments, thanks. She does have favorite items in her studio room. She has some companionship after a fashion as my mother is in the room next door and they seem to remember they know each other. I don't understand Ferris1 about the signs, could you elaborate? We gave her a (stuffed animal) 'puppy' at Christmas and she will hold and stroke the puppy and seems to like it. She had a dachshund for years and this is a good substitute. She was a very religious woman, I think she would enjoy church music, but I have to study how to have it play in her room without her having to turn something on. I love the brain trust that goes on here. Thanks.
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