Minor delusion events have been happening for a couple of years with our elder. She would see someone who wasn’t there or something of that nature. A quick check to make sure there wasn’t a stranger around reassured her. Now they are becoming more complicated.
To Them it’s Real: A delusion is something that isn’t real or didn’t happen. However, to the person with the delusion, it’s real. It happened. In order to comfort or protect the patient we have to look at it from their eyes.
Reassure if Possible: In our family there have been several elders who had delusions. Most of the time these were based on fear. One was reliving an incident that happened when she was a small child. Another elder may be afraid that she’s hurting people’s feelings and gets upset because in her delusions someone is angry with her over what she’d said.
In both of these cases, reassurance was and is the answer. Trying to explain a delusion to a dementia patient isn’t easy. We encourage our elder to think of them as a dream. We also reassure her that we aren’t angry with her, that she hasn’t done anything wrong.
Report Dangerous Delusions: Some delusions can be violent. This happened in the nursing home I worked in. A patient attacked a caregiver. This is something that has to be reported to the doctor immediately. The danger could be to the patient or to others around the patient. There are things that can be done, but we can’t do them.
Don’t Tease: Delusions can be seen as the perfect opportunity to tease the patient. This is harmful and abusive. Once the patient comes out of the delusion it can also harm your relationship with the patient.
Don’t React in Anger: As I said at the beginning, these things are real to the patient. Sometimes what they say can make us angry. While a feeling of anger may flare up, it’s not wise to allow it to shape how we react. It will make a difficult situation even more difficult.
On Being Prepared: It’s easy to think you’re prepared for this to happen, especially if you’ve read about it a great deal. It’s even easy to think you’re prepared because you’ve seen it before. I can tell you from experience that you probably aren’t and may never be. It’s different when it’s a loved one, especially an elder you respect. It seems to come out of the blue.
Delusions are hard to deal with, both as the patient and as the family. We are fortunate that the staff at our elder’s facility are well trained and can handle these situations in a way that comforts our elder and protects her from her fears.