Dementia Home Care: How To Respond When Loved Ones With Dementia Are Confused

March 4, 2021 by Katie Davis

Dementia Home Care - tips to help with the confusion

If you are a caregiver providing dementia home care for a senior, you may find yourself in a situation where your loved one is confused. Confusion is often a byproduct of the memory loss and cognitive impairment that sadly accompanies a dementia diagnosis.

It can be difficult to manage your emotions when a loved one struggles to remember familiar names or places. That’s why it’s important to have a plan in place. That way you can avoid escalating in the moment and instead, help your loved one manage their confusion.

We recommend a few specific strategies for dementia home care to reduce and manage confusion in loved ones with dementia. 

Tips for Managing Dementia and Confusion

Step #1: Become a compassionate observer.

The cognitive declines associated with dementia can result in unusual behavior and a loss of capability. This may manifest in ways that may be shocking or even embarrassing at times to loved ones and caregivers. 

When observing this behavior, or while observing a loved one in a moment of confusion, it’s important to remember that they’re doing their best given the circumstances. We cannot understand the very real emotions they may be feeling but we can be supportive, we can be patient and we can scan the environment for triggers.

It’s best to affirm your loved one – to help them be as independent and engaged as possible – even if their reality is temporarily different from your own. Forcing loved ones to see things the way you do will only create frustration, fear and anger in both parties. Remember, they’re doing their best.

Many people struggling with confusion can often re-orient themselves or simply burn off the natural fear and anxiety resulting from confusion if they have a simple, safe and repetitive task to repeat. 

Step #2: Pick your battles.

With any loved one struggling with confusion and dementia, caregivers have an imperative to venture into their world. Don’t force them back into your reality. They may not understand it or be able to appropriately navigate it at that moment.

As a simple example, there’s no reason to argue with a loved one who is confused about which day of the week it is. While it used to be considered a best practice to attempt to “re-orient” adults with dementia to the reality of everyday life, experts now believe it is more compassionate to avoid challenging your loved one on a daily basis.

However, this doesn’t mean you should neglect critical tasks like ensuring they attend necessary medical appointments or that they take their medications properly. Instead, if your loved one is confused or resistant to completing critical tasks, try gently distracting them.

Keeping your words and guidance simple will also help your loved one respond more positively to your caregiving requests.

Step #3: Adopt a flexible routine.

Oftentimes, cognitive impairment and confusion can cause a loved one to alter their routine. They may not sleep as easily as they used to, or they may eat at odd times, or rarely eat.

Individuals with dementia respond well to a flexible but structured daily schedule. A typical day should be filled with simple, approachable tasks. This may include some light exercise and time spent outside or in brightly lit areas with natural sunlight when possible. 

These interventions can help regulate circadian rhythms, reduce anxiety and also improve appetites. High-caloric, sweet-tasting snacks with protein supplements can also help older adults with dementia maintain their body weight.

Then, as the day draws to a close, consider a structured nighttime routine. This could include a warm bath, clean sheets, pajamas and even a bit of lavender spray on the pillow. This sense of routine and calm may help your loved one fall asleep more quickly.

In closing, at CarePods we know dementia home care is a challenge. Dementia is difficult disease – for the person who lives with it and for their caregivers. We hope these tips have been helpful to you. Should you need additional help caring for a loved one with dementia, we’d be happy to help.

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