Through our work, we meet lots of people who are living with Dementia that suffer with false beliefs and/or delusions. It can be difficult for those around them to support them so we wanted to share some advice.
False beliefs and delusions in dementia
We understand the world through our senses. They collect information and send it to our brain to make sense of the world around us.
For some people living with Dementia, their brain misinterprets the information from their senses. This can lead them to holding false beliefs and delusions about the world around them. These beliefs can be very distressing for the person living with dementia, and the person caring for them.
How can you recognise when a person with dementia is experiencing delusions?
The person might:
· Make accusations that someone is stealing from them or harming them in some way
· Hide possessions around the house to keep them safe.
· Phone the police frequently
· Refuse to open the door or take calls from people they’re suspicious of
· Talk in whispers and say thinks like “they can hear us”.
· Constantly losing things
· Thinking that they’re younger than they are.
· Mistake identities of people
· Believe they’re in a different place
· Re-live past traumas or events
Practical tips for preventing/managing some false beliefs and delusions:
· Keep spares of important items like might get misplaced like glasses or keys
· Make sure the person living with dementia has regular hearing and sight tests
· Monitor the person for any signs of infection, constipation or physical ill health and seek a medical appointment quickly
· Look out for side effects if there has been a change in medication
· Check the person with dementia is eating and drinking sufficiently
· Try to keep to a routine and limit changes to the persons environment
· Keep photographs of them and close family and friends to help them recognise the present time
· Try to recognise and understand that to the person, this belief or reality is real so are the emotions they feel as a result
· Provide explanations and reassurance to the person without correcting them
· Respond to fear, anger and distress in a calm way
· Try to establish what caused the false belief
· Try to involve the person in doing something they enjoy as a way of distracting them
· If strategies don’t seem to be working you can ‘go along’ with the person until they’re calmer or they’ve moved onto a different topic