If you’re providing care for a loved one with dementia, there are numerous challenges – especially as their ability to perceive reality begins to wane.
As a person’s dementia progresses, they may start seeing things that aren’t there, calling for people who are long gone, or even mistaking you for a different person. This is a serious challenge for both patient and the caregiver. ACT Teletherapy specializes in dementia counseling, and we have some advice to help make this a little easier.
Adapting To a Dementia Patient’s Alternate Reality
The most important thing to keep in mind is that, to the patient, the things they’re seeing are real. Simply insisting on your perception of reality will likely do very little to help and can easily upset them further.
Often, the best course of action is to “play along” and try to ascertain the reasons that they’re perceiving certain false realities. In many cases, it’s an emotional cry for help, and satisfying the emotional need can help soothe them.
For example, if they are calling for their deceased spouse, they may simply be looking for emotional comfort in a time of pain. Or there might be something specific they want, which they connect to that person, such as a particular dish their spouse used to cook them. In that case, you might be able to provide the food they want, and the comfort it brings.
A more difficult situation is if the person is actively hallucinating. For example, hallucinations involving insects are common – and very disturbing to them. You might be able to playact through the situation. I.e., if they believe there are bugs crawling around their bed, ask where the bugs are, then “kill” the bugs with “bug spray” (water in a spritz bottle) and see if that satisfies them.
There may also be something in their environment that is triggering the hallucinations. A blanket with a lot of black spots on it, for example, could be mistaken for insects. In this case, try changing the object in question to see if the bugs go away for them.
However, be wary of lying more than is necessary. If they’re calling for a dead spouse, don’t tell them that spouse is going to visit. Try to be more indirect and avoid making promises which cannot be upheld.
ACT Teletherapy Provides Dementia Counseling
ACT Teletherapy is here to make your life easier. We provide robust dementia counseling for caregivers, at reasonable rates. If you’re caring for a loved one with dementia and struggling to maintain your mental health, please contact us for help.