Does Your Loved One with Alzheimer’s Lapse into an Alternate Reality?
Alzheimer’s disease alters someone’s mind so that memories surrounding more recent incidents are forgotten or mixed up while memories about the more distant past often continue to be intact. This might cause past years to make more sense to an individual with dementia than the present. An individual’s alternate reality can be his or her method of making sense of the present through previous recollections.
People with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia often have problems expressing themselves, and sometimes their alternate reality has more to do with a desire or a particular feeling they are trying to express than it has to do with the things they are saying.
- “When will my husband be home?” This question could possibly be more about a desire for affection or acceptance than it is about desiring to see her husband, who died many years ago. The right response to discover more could be, “Why do you want to see him?”
- “I need to deliver all these cupcakes to the neighbors before the end of the afternoon.” Though these cupcakes don’t exist, the words may signify a need for meaning in everyday life or wanting to be involved in an activity. An effective reaction to discover more could be, “Why did you make cupcakes for your neighbors?”
Maintaining a diary of these kinds of events could help you figure out trends in needs. The more you tune in and pay close attention, the simpler it will become to comprehend the thinking behind the alternate reality and how to best respond.
Is It Alright to Play Along?
Provided that the scenario won’t be dangerous or inappropriate, it is ok to play along with your loved one’s alternate reality. Doing so will not make things worse. Remember, the person’s reality is true to him/her and playing along can make your loved one feel more at ease.
If the situation is not appropriate or might cause danger to your loved one, try to reply to the perceived need while redirecting the individual to something less harmful or more appropriate.
Keep in mind these 3 steps:
- Reassure the older adult.
- Respond to his or her need.
- Redirect if necessary.
In addition, call on the trained in-home care services of Hired Hands Homecare of Sonoma. Our caregivers are skilled in caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease and can provide respite care services for family caregivers who are in need of some time to refresh and recharge.