Paranoia is one of the many possible challenges of dementia. It’s a blaming belief or suspicion that a person with dementia holds onto, despite explanations or lack of proof of this belief.
Sometimes people with dementia will accuse others in the household of stealing something that they themselves have misplaced. It is very tempting to try to convince the person otherwise when they believe that something has been stolen. But arguing doesn’t get us very far when a person has dementia. It usually causes stress, frustration and upset for all concerned! It is more productive to “cross to their side of the street” in order to see things compassionately, from the person’s point of view. Sandra McGurran, social worker with Fairview Home Care and Hospice Senior Services, recently shared with me the idea that “Compassion = Empathy + Action” This concept can be applied here.
Here are some DO’S and DON’TS to guide you in giving a compassionate response in these sorts of situations.
DO NOT TAKE OFFENSE on behalf of the accused person.
DO LISTEN to what is bothering the person with dementia, and VALIDATE their feeling, i.e., “That’s not a very nice feeling, to think someone would just take something from you.”
DO RESIST THE URGE to get into an argument with the person.
DO ACKNOWLEDGE the upset. “I can see why you’re upset. I would be too, if that happened to me.”
DO NOT offer a lengthy opinion or a list of reasons why they shouldn’t be upset.
DO OFFER A SIMPLE IDEA. “I wonder if your blouse is in the wash.” Or… “Maybe your wallet was left in a pocket?”
DO BE HELPFUL and action-oriented. “I will go check the laundry room. Or, "Let’s check your pockets”.
DO ASK QUESTIONS. “Let me get this right. What color was that shirt?"
DO BE REASSURING. “Don’t you worry. We will get to the bottom of it. I’m sure we’ll find it” Or, “I’m good at finding things.”
DO SHIFT THE FOCUS. “Let’s have a cup of coffee; coffee always helps me think more clearly!” Be sure to offer something you know the person will be interested in!
DO DUPLICATE items that are repeatedly misplaced. For example, if a person often loses their wallet, obtain several of the same kind to keep on hand. Make copies of cards that are in the original, so you can stuff the replacement wallets with those.
But what if YOU are the person being accused directly? This can certainly be tricky. It’s hard not to feel hurt by such an accusation. What can you do?
DO LET THAT ROLL OFF YOUR BACK in favor of remembering that your family member is functioning with a brain that is doing the absolute best it can possibly do under the circumstances of dementia.
DO TRY IGNORING THE ACCUSATION. Instead, simply validate the person’s feelings, i.e., “Oh no! Your favorite blouse is missing? Of course you’re upset. That’s a beautiful blouse!”
Maybe this will distract the focus from YOUR culpability, or maybe not. Depending on the level of the person’s upset and suspiciousness, you might need to step away and if someone else is available to assist. In that case, try, “I can see you’re upset with me. I’ll go see if Ann will help you look.”
DO THINK AHEAD. For things that are frequently misplaced, it could be helpful to establish and clearly label a home base in the room where a purse can hang or a wallet can sit. You might initiate a routine of checking that spot every night together.
Finally, it can really help in any sort of frustrating situation with a person with dementia to MAINTAIN A SENSE OF HUMOR AND GOOD WILL towards the person. Is there a way you can turn that uncomfortable situation around and actually give the person a compliment? Maybe you can remind them of advice they once gave you! “You know, Mom, I remember you telling me when I lost stuff that I would forget my head if it wasn’t attached. You were so right! You also said that lost things usually turn up if we are teensy bit patient! That was always so helpful!”
For more info on coping with paranoia as well as other challenges that can arise with dementia, see Coping with Behavior Change in Dementia: A Family Caregiver’s Guide, by Beth Spencer and Laurie White.
--Marysue Moses, Ebenezer Dimensions Program Coordinator
Many older adults want to stay in their home as long as possible. There is an assumption that staying in your home means you are independent, but the reality is it can often lead to loneliness and isolation. The health effects of long-term isolation are measureable and include chronic health conditions, depression, anxiety, dementia and even premature death. One study reported the negative health effects of long-term isolation are equal to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Loneliness is on the rise overall, but those most affected are those 80 and older according to a 2016 study.
Older adults who are most at risk are often:
The best remedy for loneliness is staying connected. Staying connected, interacting with others, and staying socially engaged with friends and your community can help keep fight loneliness and the health risks that are associated with it.
How can a move to Senior Living help fight loneliness?
When people move into a senior living community, the older adults often tell us, “I wish I would have moved sooner.” And their family members tell us, “We’ve seen our loved one blossom in the last few months!”
We invite you to visit Vintage Hills. Talk with our residents to hear how their health and their lives have changed for the better after moving to senior living.
For more information about loneliness and isolation, the AARP Foundation offers its online resource Connect2Affect. There you can find a self-assessment to determine your risk factors and tips on how to stay connected. Click here to take your self-assessment. Resources that informed this article include Government’s Role in Fighting Loneliness by Emily Holland, as published in the Wall Street Journal, and the Blue Zones Power 9 ® by Dan Buettner.
Many older adults think about moving to a senior living community, or have had talks with their family members about moving, but often have the feeling that they are ‘not ready.’ At Ebenezer, we hear you. (We also hear “I don’t know why I waited!” but that’s another article.)
Just because you’re not ready now, doesn’t mean you can’t work on getting things in order when or if you move. And even when you’ve taken care of the things below, it still doesn’t mean you have to make a move. It’s always best to be prepared. So if you want to or have to make a move, you’ll have the important pieces all ready to go!
Visit Your Doctor
Hopefully, you are getting your regular check-ups with your primary physician, but if not, make an appointment. Have the doctor review your medication list to make sure the list is up to date and appropriate. Let him or her know that you are considering a move to senior living. If you end up needing to move to an assisted living setting, your doctor will have to sign off on orders. This can happen more quickly (and more smoothly) if you have recently seen your doctor and have had these discussions in person.
You have 2 assignments here.
Depending on where you want to be, what type of apartment you want, and what service level you need (senior living, assisted living, memory care or enhanced care) you may encounter long waiting lists. When you do your research and shop around, ask about waiting lists and get on a few of them. There’s no guarantee something will be available for you when you are ready, but this gives you a little more priority and increases your odds of getting the apartment you want when you want or need it.
When you move to a senior living community and it comes time to sign a lease, you will likely need to identify a Power of Attorney and Health Care representative, and you may need to provide copies of the forms. Make sure you have quick access to your notarized Power of Attorney form and your Health Care Directive.
That’s it! You may have noticed there is no ‘to-do’ item for the house. Even though getting the house ready, or needing to downsize, is a reason many people feel they’re not ready for a move, a lot of times, when people make a transition, it’s not because they’ve finished downsizing and their house is in perfect condition to sell. When you decide you’re ready, you’ll figure out quickly what to do with your house and your stuff. There are realtors and move managers who specialize in working with seniors who can make your move and the sale of your home a breeze!
When persons with dementia move into a memory care community, it can take from several weeks up to three months or more for the person to adjust and feel comfortable with the new environment and routine. From my personal experience working with memory care residents at one assisted living for over a decade, I would say the average amount of time before the person settled in was no longer than a month. Your loved one may be angry for a while, and may seem more confused than before. This is a perfectly normal phase. Rest assured, things will improve in time. Here are ten tips to help ease the transition: