Delusions can be frightening and painful for both the senior and the family. If you are caring for someone who is experiencing delusions, consider these tips:

  • Try not to overreact or get upset, even if, like the false accusation, the delusion is upsetting. Remember, a real disease or disorder is attacking the brain. It’s the disease at work, not the person.
  • In cases of mistaken identity, try offering some gentle cues. “Gosh, honey, it’s me, Mary, your wife!” You can help maintain another’s dignity by saying, “You’ve got such a sense of humor” or “I know I look young enough to be your daughter.”
  • Let the person know you have heard his or her concern. “Mom, I’m so sorry your purse is missing. That is upsetting. Let’s look around just in case it accidentally got misplaced.” You can then celebrate with a big smile and hug when you “find” the purse.
  • “Tell me about that purse. Is it the red one or blue one?” Asking additional questions can allow the person to tell you more about worries and concerns.
  • Don’t argue. You can almost never talk the person out of a belief or concern or convince him that he or she is wrong. If your family member thinks the fence has been moved, say that you will work on getting to the bottom of the situation or call the county to investigate.
  • Take advantage of the passage of time. Sometimes your best efforts will fail and the person will continue to express the delusion. If you provide ongoing reassurance and take a low-key approach, these delusions will go away on their own.

Delusions can be one of the most challenging symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. If they become overwhelming, consider consulting a professional. Reach out to the person’s doctor, a geriatric care manager, or a professional caregiver who has received training in handling challenging behavioral symptoms associated with dementia.