Family caregivers can get frustrated when their elderly relative starts to act suspicious or paranoid. They believe that certain bad things are going on in their life that are not true, such as they are being followed, someone is stealing from them or that they have to go somewhere immediately. These types of paranoid delusions are not uncommon for elderly people that are in the middle to late stages of dementia.
Here are 5 tips on handling paranoia in elderly relatives.
- Expect Mood Swings.
Dementia-related paranoia can arise at any time, bringing a calm and happy elderly person into an angry or aggressive mood in no time. They may act irrationally, aggressively, and even put themselves in danger as they try to act out in a way that aligns with their fixed beliefs. Their moods can change back again after they have been distracted. Family caregivers, friends, and home care assistants should remain calm, keep them safe, and talk them through it.
- Listen and Sympathize.
When elderly people are paranoid, they often feel that nobody is listening to them or taking them seriously. Family caregivers can listen and sympathize, and that can reduce the anxiety. For example, an elderly person may insist that one of their children is not home yet and they need to go search for them. The truth is that their adult child hasn’t lived there for years and may even live in another state. Instead of arguing with them about how old their child is now and where they live, family caregivers can say things like, “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I’m sure you miss him, don’t you?”
- Don’t Agree to Indulge Them.
While it might be tempting to just agree with the elderly relative’s paranoia that can cause its own set of problems. Just as there is no reasoning with someone with dementia, agreeing with them doesn’t alleviate their worry. It still forces them to confront an untrue situation with limited cognitive ability. Using the previous example, it wouldn’t do any good to tell an elderly person that their little child is just upstairs or at school when they are actually grown and living hundreds of miles away.
- Redirect Their Attention.
Elderly people with paranoid delusions brought on by dementia are often easy to redirect or distract. This can help break the obsessive cycle they may be in when they are convinced of something wrong or they are suspicious of someone, like a home care assistant. Suggestions to take a walk, a car ride, turn on the television, have a snack, and other activities can be enough to refocus their thoughts and ideas. Using the previous example, a family caregiver could suggest to the elderly person who is seeking their child that they look at his pictures in the photo album or that they take a car ride and get some ice cream.
- Use Nonverbal Reassurances.
Family caregivers can help calm suspicious elderly relatives by sitting close to them offering them hugs, holding their hand, and patting their back or shoulder. Nonverbal communication is powerful and can help calm the body and mind where words may not be as effective.
If you or a loved one are looking for experienced home care in Vienna, VA, contact SenCura at 703-880-2547. Providing in-home senior care in Northern Virginia.