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Refocus Attention

When an individual with dementia becomes fearful or paranoid of non-real events, validate their feelings and refocus them on tasks that alleviate the anxiety. Being confrontational or trying to reason with them will only worsen the situation.

Dementia affects a person’s ability to interpret sensory information accurately, leading them to construct false realities in an effort to “make sense” of daily events. Dwindling control, confusion and resulting insecurities can cause your loved one to interpret events from a fearful perspective, leading to suspicions and false ideas. In this state, the sound of rain tapping on the window may be identified as someone breaking into the house. Or, a misplaced item may be perceived as stolen. 

How can you best calm your loved one?

Respond to the fear or misinterpretation with compassion and support, then redirect the focus. Never attempt to correct, reason or argue with someone affected by dementia, even when the source of misunderstanding appears obvious or logical. Arguing the truth will not correct the situation. Instead, offer to help mom find her “stolen” purse, suggesting a cup of tea after it’s located. Tell dad that the sound he heard was probably just raindrops, but you’ll stay with him for a while to be sure — then reminisce about a special family holiday or vacation.