Tips for the Caregiver

Making Sense of Confusion: Tips for the Caregiver

It is two o’clock in the morning. You are awakened by a sound in the next room. You get up and find your mother in the kitchen, taking food out of the refrigerator. A skillet is on the stove.

“Mom, it’s me” you say. “What are you doing? Let’s go back to bed.” She insists it’s lunchtime.

“Are you hungry?” you ask her. “I can fix you a snack, but it’s not time for lunch.” She shakes her head. You walk her to the window above the sink and show her, “See Mom, it’s still dark outside.” Her eyes turn to meet yours, welling up with tears. “I’m so sorry I woke you…” Her voice trails off.

You reassure her with a hug and walk her back to her room, kissing her on the forehead as she lies down in bed. You wait for her to fall back to sleep with the tears are streaming down your face unbeknownst to her. As you walk back to your room, your tears become sobs, and you pray the Lord’s strength will meet you in this moment and that His peace will comfort your mother—especially in her lucid moments as her Alzheimer’s is progressing…

For the caregiver of a family member (or friend) with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or many other diseases which affect the mind, dealing with the confusion is a very difficult task. Finding ways to re-orient a loved one during a confused moment, reassure him or her of one’s love, and understand what he or she is trying to convey while remaining calm is far from easy.

Some tips you may find helpful follow.

Establish and maintain a daily routine, doing the same things at the same times, is reassuring and comforting. Changes to the routine can be upsetting.

Keep your home peaceful by providing good lighting, avoiding excessive noise such as loud television shows or music, and maintain temperate temperature.

Keep surroundings familiar by not moving furniture or belongings around.

Yet, be flexible yourself because sometimes the confused person may not be able to doing a specific task at a specific time. If it can wait for a better time, let it wait.

Asking questions by giving choices. For instance, ask “Do you want water or juice?” as opposed to “What do you want to drink?”

If your loved one is becoming frustrated or upset and you are not able to figure out why, try asking simple yes and no questions, or questions that can be answered in one word.

If your loved one does become agitated or upset, ask yourself whether he or she is in pain, feverish or ill or perhaps hungry or thirsty and simply unable to express the need. Speak in a reassuring tone, slowly and clearly, remaining calm and quiet but be sure to address the person by name and reassure that are there to help Try to divert their attention by getting them to start an activity that is typically enjoyed or that gives comfort such as watching a favorite movie, listening to music, taking a walk, etc.

Maintaining a safe environment includes keeping areas well lit, pathways clear, removing throw rugs, and using nightlights. Keep medications, chemicals, alcohol, matches, knives, firearms in locked cabinets. Lock doors to outside to prevent your loved one from wandering away. Also lock doors to areas where accidents, falling or fires could easily occur such as to basement stairs, the kitchen or garage. Baby monitors are helpful so you can monitor and listen when they are out of sight.

Taking care of a loved one suffering from confusion is very tiring. These are only a few tips to help deal with the difficulties that come with being a caregiver. Allow yourself a break on a regular basis by calling a friend or relative to stay with your loved one while you get out for a little while. Contact your local Alzheimer’s Association for more information about programs and for times of local support groups for caregivers. Oftentimes, the Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s patient can qualify for home health services through Medicare or private insurance. In addition to traditional home care, there are also private pay sitter services and even twenty-four hour care available in the home.