Confusion is common in dementia. People affected by confusion often have an underlying brain injury or disease, which is the case in a person with dementia. A person may also have trouble interpreting complex stimuli and a overwhelming amount of information while her cognitive capacities are diminishing. Often, confusion is caused by an increase in physical and mental stress, such as an infection, new medication, change of environment, etc. A person with dementia whose behaviour suddenly changes and who becomes anxious and aggressive, perhaps developing hallucinations, may be suffering from confusion. Other people may develop other symptoms with confusion, but common to all of them is a muddled consciousness and a change in the pattern of their symptoms. For this reason, suspected confusion must be investigated as a matter of urgency so that the underlying cause of the condition can be addressed as soon as possible.

Good advice for handling confusion:

    • Be attentive to the situation and try to provide the person who is confused with clues to help them get back on track. 
    • If you are talking about specific objects or people, point to them or show their pictures to make the communication easier.
    • If confusion occurs in response to your words or instructions, try to say the same thing using shorter sentences or simple words.
    • You should not lie if the person cannot remember e.g. that their parents are dead, but similarly try not to tell them every time they forget.
    • If confusion seems to deepen, try redirecting the person’s attention to another activity or topic.

Confusion can occur, for example, with Alzheimer’s, Lewy body, Parkinson’s, vascular and fronto-temporal dementia. To find out more about the diseases, click here.

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