looking for suggestions for working with resident with dementia

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We have a resident who very often thinks that her husband/father (it fluctuates between the two) is dying or has just died.  She is so often grieving for them as if they just died.  Can anyone offer suggestions in dealing with this.  For example, she will say "I wish there was some way I could call/visit the hospital and see if he's still there."  

If we say, "Sorry, he died a long time ago," I don't think that is terribly effective.

Also, she sometimes gets her days and nights mixed up and will come downstairs at 9 p.m. thinking it is morning.


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  • Posted

    Oh, that's so sad. When my dear friend was dying in an awful psychogeriatric unit a few years ago, there was another old lady on her corridor who used to sob constantly that she wanted her papa. I found this terribly upsetting, and could only wipe her nose, hold her hand and assure her that she'd see him very soon.

    It sounds as if your resident at least has a loving, caring team around her, for which she's very fortunate.

    I don't think there's a lot you can do about your lady confusing night and day. Virtually all dementia sufferers do this. You might try asking her doctor about medication, but this is difficult too. Sleeping pills increase the risk of confusion and falls during the night, and too many heavy-handed doctors prescribe powerful antipsychotics that are quite unsuitable for the elderly (which is what happened to my poor friend).

    As for the upsetting requests to go and see her dying relative, subterfuge can sometimes help. I once saw a TV documentary about a home in The Netherlands, where they'd installed a fake bus stop on the premises, where residents could wait for their bus home (another common preoccupation). Although it feels inherently dishonest to me, it seemed to help many of the residents, who'd sit there for a while then forget what they were waiting for. Perhaps, by the same token, telling your lady that you were going to arrange a visit might help. Dementia sufferers have very little in the way of short-term memory, so it's unlikely she'd subsequently reproach you for not arranging it.

    Above all, simple loving kindness always helps.

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