Symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease

How to Help Seniors Cope with Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s Patients Benefit from Understanding

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can be a difficult prospect, especially as memory fades and the patient begins to experience hallucinations or delusions. Family members may have difficulty knowing what to say or do in any given situation when an aging parent sees things that aren’t there or becomes suspicious of formerly trusted individuals. It’s important to remember that the person may experience an altered reality, and reasoning or logic may not work. Instead, offer support and understanding to provide the security they need.

Understanding the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s patients may experience hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia as the disease progresses. The way you approach the situation will depend on the type of symptom being expressed:

  • Hallucinations–Defined as a sensory perception or experience of something that isn’t real, a hallucination can be confusing or frightening to the person experiencing it.
  • Delusions–Delusions are false beliefs that may result from a faulty memory. The person may accuse caregivers or family members of theft, when in reality an item has simply been misplaced.
  • Paranoia–Characterized by suspiciousness and hostility, paranoia often projects the frustration the patient is feeling onto a caregiver or loved one.

While it isn’t possible to prevent these symptoms from occurring, caregivers can help make them less traumatic for everyone involved by using a sensitive and careful approach.

How to Cope With the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

Hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia can cause relational problems in families, especially if hostility or suspicion is directed at caregivers and loved ones. Understanding the plight of the patient, however, can help. When an altered sense of reality caused by Alzheimer’s creates fear and confusion in an aging parent, family members can help him or her feel safe by remaining nearby and voicing empathy for the fear. It’s important not to increase agitation by insisting that what the person sees or hears is false. Comforting touch, a change of scenery such as a short walk or moving to a different room, or distractions like something to eat may help as well. Changing the environment to eliminate unexpected reflections, shadowy corners, or distortions can help prevent startling experiences.

Dealing with delusions and paranoia can be difficult as well, especially if the person begins to direct hostility toward a caregiver or family member. Avoid responding defensively if you are accused; remember instead that the accusation may be the result of a faulty memory and reassure the person that you will help look for the lost item. Paranoia, in particular, may be the result of overmedication. An in-home caregiver can help by overseeing the medication to prevent double doses or missed doses.

Other Causes of Alzheimer-like Symptoms

Hallucinations may also be caused by other conditions such as failing eyesight, lost hearing, dehydration, kidney infections, or mental illness. Severe hallucinations may need medication, but the medication carries risk as well. Your loved one’s doctor can help you determine the course of action you should take for best quality of life.

Photo by pedrosimoes7

Originally posted 2014-11-25 10:30:42.

Joyce Apperson
Joyce Apperson

Joyce Apperson is a Registered Nurse and Geriatric Care Manager with 15 plus years of experience working with advocating for seniors. She is the founder and President of Caring Connection, Inc., which provides in-home care and geriatric care management in Harford County, Baltimore County and Cecil County in Maryland. Joyce currently serves on the Harford County Advisory Board on Aging. In addition to writing articles here for the Caring Connection's blog, Joyce has been a regular contributor on senior care topics to the County Gazette.

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