Many family caregivers are surprised to see their typically calm and pleasant elderly relative react with anger, fear or aggression about something. When an elderly person has dementia, they can react suspiciously to changes in their environment or routine. Paranoid delusions can even be triggered by familiar faces, such as family members or home care assistants coming in and out of their home. These mood swings can happen quickly and can be upsetting for both the elderly person and the family caregiver.
How Does Dementia Trigger Paranoia?
Dementia affects how the brain processes new information and recalls old information. Many elderly people with dementia cannot properly assess their surroundings and their reduced cognitive ability fills in the blanks, often resulting in suspicious accusations and paranoid behavior. Family caregivers need to learn how to quickly calm their elderly relative and distract them from whatever upsetting thoughts they are having.
It’s not uncommon for elderly people with dementia to believe that lost items have been stolen, that new people are going to hurt them, and that once-familiar surroundings are not where they are supposed to be. Seniors with dementia can have paranoid delusions that they are being followed or watched, that people who have died are still living or just a vague fear that something bad is going to happen. They usually become sad and worried or angry and frustrated with those around them. While there is usually no basis for their accusations, what they experience seems very real to them.
How to Help Elderly Relatives with Paranoia
Family members can learn to soothe the suspicious minds of elderly relatives with dementia with a few techniques that are designed to reduce anxiety and redirect their attention to other topics. When a family member is upset and suspicious about something, the family caregiver or home care aide should use a calm tone and offer reassurances. They should not argue or try to convince the elderly person that they are wrong. Instead, they should listen and validate their feelings without confirming the accusations.
Family caregivers can also provide simple answers and try to redirect their elderly relative’s thoughts. For example, the elderly person may be upset because they want to go home and claim they are being held against their will, even though they are home already. The family caregiver should acknowledge that they are upset, soothe them, and perhaps say that they can’t leave now because the traffic is bad. Then they can offer to fix a snack and turn on the television “while we wait.” In time, the elderly person will calm down and the paranoia will subside.
It can be frustrating to deal with the suspicious mind of an elderly relative with dementia, but there is simply no way to convince them that the suspicions that they believe are just not true. All family caregivers can do is use calming techniques to ease their loved one’s minds and help them feel more safe and secure.
If you or an aging loved one are considering Home Care Services in Renton WA, contact the caring staff at Hospitality Home Care today. Call us at (206) 966-6552.