My Mom Gets Confused, How Do I Help Her?

September 2, 2009 at 11:25 pm 1 comment

One of the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s often goes undetected, denied, and ignored. It’s confusion. We make excuses for why Mom fed the cat Cheerios. We make excuses why Dad bought three gallons of milk and then put all three in three in the laundry cabinet and not the frig. We tell ourselves that our husband just got distracted and that’s why he drove to the old house where we lived 15 years ago.

Confusion starts out as a tap on our shoulder. “Pay attention,” it whispers. Then, if we don’t pay attention, confusion gets louder.

We forget things as we age, right? Everyone gets confused at times.

I tried to “cut my mom some slack”  as I called it. She so wanted to live in her own home and I had tried so hard to arrange everything from her food to her transportation needs…but I worried. A lot.

Confusion can be due to medication side effects, and confusion can simply be mild dementia, or it can be a sign of stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body, or other issues.

You might not be able to cure your loved one’s confusion, but if you see it as a clue to help lead you to diagnosis, then confusion can be a good thing.

I finally caught on and shared with my mother’s neurologist about her growing confusion. She had already been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, but her doctor took her new symptom quite serious and did further testing and readjusted her medication.

Practical Ways to Help Your Loved One with Confusion:

  • Try not to confront them. It’s scary to be confused. Your mom or dad (or spouse) may be afraid to share what’s really going on because you have the “power” to take away their independence. So coming at them head on will only cause them to cover up what’s going on.
  • Don’t argue the point. If they believe that they fed the cat, but you don’t think they did, then quietly feed the cat a “snack.”
  • Keep their safety in the forefront of your mind–and decisions. Ask yourself: is my mom safe to drive? Safe to live alone? Safe to shower or bathe when I’m not here? Safe to manage his/her medications? Safe to feed themselves reguarlfy? If you’re not sure about any of these questions, then start paying close attention.
  • Drop in at odd times, or even follow them in your car. If your loved one is still living alone, do a little spying and follow them to the grocery store and see how they park, whether they pay attention to the cars as they cross the street, or if they leave their purse unguarded in the cart for minutes at a time.
  • Make decisions about change (driving, living arrangements) after much thought. It’s so easy to panic and rip the car keys out of their hands or start calling assisted living homes. Do some research and think it through. Where should your mom/dad live? With you? Near you? What’s best for them–and for you? Take a bit of time to prepare and then prepare them with kindness and patience.
  • Be patient. Confusion doesn’t always go away. If you let it get to you, you’re in for a long road. You don’t have to be right, and they don’t have to be wrong.
  • Grieve what’s gone. It’s quite an adjustment to realize that your loved one has  lost some of their cognitive abilities. It effects your life and at first, you’re reeling with questions, concerns, and trying to figure out how to manage not only your chaotic life, but now your parents/loved one’s issues as well. It’s okay to be sad and scared. Consider calling a dear friend and pouring your heart out–or joining a caregiving support group. There’s something comforting in knowing youre not alone.

After time, you’ll see that initial stage of confusion as a blessing. It will lead you to ways to help your loved one get better care. Sometimes (oftentimes) their confusions are fodder for great stories and laughs. You’ll have a few tiffs and few tears, and hopefully some hugs and smiles all along the way.

Entry filed under: brain fitness, caring for parents, elder care, family caregiving. Tags: , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Jeannette  |  October 3, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years ago , and I have been her primary caregiver. Her confusion was my first big stumbling block. This blog entry confirms many of the things I have learned the hard way. I also have had good success with a simplified recorder ( I record messages aimed at keeping Mom less anxious. A typical message might be, “Mom, today is Tuesday, and you’ve had a good breakfast. Mary is here with you and I will be back this afternoon.” My mother plays a message like this over and over again. I can change the message as often as I want. She really likes hearing my voice.


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This Blog

Hi, I'm Carol O'Dell. This blog will include stories and lessons I've learned while caring for my mom, and now as I speak to caregivers around the country. I hope to offer suggestions, ideas and insights that will help others.

While this blog is supported by Dakim Brain Fitness, I’m not blogging to promote the Dakim company or products. Instead, I’m writing about how caring and being cared for affects your life and your family. My hope is that this blog gives you a place to learn, reflect, gain new perspective to make it another day.

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