Home > Behavior, Caregivers, Strategies > Tips For Minimizing Disorientation

Tips For Minimizing Disorientation

Image courtesy Gregory Szarkiewicz, http://www.freedigitalphotos.netOne of the problems commonly found in persons with dementia, at a certain stage, is disorientation.  This can be related to place (location), or to person or time.  These problems can lead to wandering, or behavioral outbursts, and can be a real challenge for caregivers.  Today, I ran across a site that did a good job of describing some helpful strategies that can be used when caring for a person who is plagued by problems with orientation.  I thought I would share some of these with my readers.

Sadly, one of the first treatments administered to a person who is showing behavioral problems due to disorientation is that of medication.  However, for the greater majority of these instances, environmental measures and other supportive procedures are much more beneficial.  Not only do they work better, but the person with dementia is then free of the negative side effects that come with using some of these medications.  And, wouldn’t you much rather your loved one didn’t have to be drugged up all the time?  Just imagine yourself in their shoes.  What if you didn’t recognize the people around you, or suddenly your surroundings looked unfamiliar to you?  Then imagine that some person you don’t know from Adam comes in and starts trying to take off your clothing.  You try to protest, but they only become more insistent in their efforts at removing your clothing, perhaps telling you to just be sensible and do what you’re told.  Wouldn’t you get a little upset, and maybe not just a little?

Here are some helpful tips for those who are working with persons who may become disoriented:

1.  Speak in short sentences, using easy to understand words.  Remind the person of what day and time it is.  Remind him of where he is.  Introduce yourself to him, even if you have taken care of him every day for the last year.  Do the same for anyone else who may have accompanied you into the room.

2.  Be sure to account for any sensory impairments the person may have.  Make sure he has his glasses, hearing aids, dentures.  Does he speak a language other than English?

3.  Be sure to provide visual cues in the environment that will help the person orient himself.  These should include a clock and a simple calendar.  Or, have a board where you can write down the day and date.  (And be sure to keep this current.  I don’t know how many times I’ve been in someone’s room, only to find a board with information from three days ago.)  Consider including information about who the caregiver of the day will be.  And you may find it helpful to put large, easily-read labels around the room to signify the bathroom, which drawers belong to the person (and which belong to his roommate), and so on.

4.  Be sure to surround the person with familiar objects, if in a hospital or nursing home.  Family photos, knick-knacks, blankets and pillows, even furniture, all will help to make him feel more comfortable in his surroundings.

5.  Be sure to involve family and friends in the caregiving process, if the person is in a hospital or nursing home.  Encourage people to visit their loved one often, and to participate in their care when possible.

6.  Be sure to keep the room temperature at a comfortable level.

7.  Remove unnecessary objects, to simplify care.  Be sure to remove anything that might prove to be an obstacle, and might prevent the person from navigating around the house safely.  Also try to keep tables and other furniture free from clutter that might serve to confuse the person.

8.  It may be helpful to provide stimulation with a television or radio.  However, be sure to find out the likes and dislikes of the person.  Familiar music, or well-loved television programs, can help him relax and be more comfortable in his situation.  Such things can also serve as a means of interaction with caregivers and visitors.  Be sure, though, to avoid allowing the television to simply become background noise.  Sometimes turning it on at carefully selected times, perhaps for favorite programs, is preferable to just having it on constantly so that it eventually gets ignored.

9.  Be sure to minimize sources of excess noise.  Be sure that the television or radio is not too loud.  Many hospitals and nursing homes are doing away with overhead speakers, or other extraneous sounds that may disturb their residents.  If an alarm goes off, be sure to answer it right away.

10.  Lighting should be adequate for the situation.  Provide a night light so that the person can identify you if you come into the darkened room at night.  Too, be sure to turn off the lights when the person goes to bed.  If he needs to be checked on frequently, use a flashlight or a small night light close to the bed.  Or leave the bathroom light on, with the door cracked, so he can go by himself if able.

11.  Include the person with dementia in making decisions when possible.  What television program does he want to watch?  What shirt does he want to wear?  Ask him if he needs help brushing his teeth, even if you know he will.  Find some way for him to have some kind of control over his environment.

12.  Encourage the person to participate in his own care as much as possible.  Check frequently to see if he is feeling pain or having any problems.

13.  Speak clearly, and avoid using medical terminology that may be confusing to the person.  On the other hand, if he used to be a doctor or otherwise was familiar with such jargon, don’t insult him by over-simplifying your speech.

14.  Be sure to avoid interrupting the person’s sleep, if at all possible.  Allow rest periods during the day, as frequently as needed.

15.  Ensure that all caregivers are consistent in their routine, and maintain a sense of regularity for the person.

(Above post inspired by http://alzheimers.about.com/od/caregivers/a/orientation.htm)

  1. April 5, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    Reblogged this on Living with Dementia.

  2. Arya Ingvorsen
    April 8, 2013 at 1:20 PM

    Thank you for this useful article.

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