August 20, 2020 by Dean Bellefeuille

It can come seemingly out of the blue: you put your loved one’s favorite tuna sandwich on the table – light on the mayo, no onions – something which usually brings her happiness. But this time, she pushes the plate away and refuses to take a bite, insisting that you’ve poisoned the meal.

Or, you have presented a senior loved one with a meaningful activity that links her to a significant time in her past career, sorting paperwork. All of a sudden, she accuses you of meddling with the documents to steal funds from her savings account.

How do you most effectively diffuse situations like these, and manage delusional behavior or hallucinations which are so prevalent in dementia?

  1. Maintain a controlled, soothing, understanding tone. It might be instinctive to become defensive and deny the accusal, but appropriate responses might include something such as, “I realize that you are feeling frightened, but I won’t let anything bad happen to you. Let’s enjoy this food together,” or, “Oh no, have you lost some money? The bank isn’t open currently, but let’s go there right away tomorrow and get it straightened out.”
  2. Move into a welcomed diversion. After sharing in the older adult’s concern, transition into a pleasurable subject or activity that the senior enjoys, or move to another area. With regards to the suspected food poisoning, you could engage the senior in going into the kitchen and helping her prepare a brand new sandwich. If you’ve reassured your loved one that you will visit the bank together tomorrow, a walk outside to look at the flowers and birds, or playing some favorite music may help.
  3. Never argue or try to reason. These approaches tend to intensify agitation in someone with Alzheimer’s. It may take some trial and error to develop the approach that works best, and that strategy may have to differ from one day to the next. The aim is to stay calm, patient, and empathetic, validating the older adult’s feelings and providing comfort.

At Home Independent Living’s, experts in eldercare in Syracuse, NY are fully trained and experienced in effective, creative dementia care techniques, and can help with managing difficult behaviors and situations, allowing a senior loved one to experience a greater quality of life, and providing family caregivers with relief and peace of mind. Email us or give us a call today at (315) 579-4663 to learn more or to inquire about additional resources to help you better care for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s. To find out if our eldercare services are available in your community, please visit our Service Area page.