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Overwhelming Or Misleading Stimuli:

People with memory problems suffer the loss of ability to interpret what they see and hear properly. Noises and things they see may become distorted -- like a fun house on the midway at the state fair. This causes the patient to become uncomfortable in crowds or in noisy settings. Groups as small as ten people can result in an angry outburst, a demand to leave, or rude statements. -- especially if the patient is tired.

If the person wants to leave, it is a good idea to honor their wishes and leave the setting, or have them retire to rest for a while Encouraging the patient to continue to attend or stay at a social gathering may produce severe agitation or waking up confused that night Use the patient's requests to leave as an indication of how much activity, noise, and how large a group the patient is able to tolerate.

If the patient begins to complain of people at home who aren't there--for example seeing little people or children-- turn off the TV, take down family pictures, and cover windows at night. Mirrors may have to be covered with roller shades especially in the bathroom.

The patient may not recognize their reflection and leave thinking a stranger is in the room.. It is best to call the Mayo Clinic Neurology Clinic and talk this over with a professional. If the patient begins to develop ideas that people are in the house, becomes suspicious that people are doing things behind his/her back, or tell stories you know aren't true.

Don't argue or correct them. Recognize that the person's brain is "playing tricks" and the illusions and beliefs are very real to them. The patient believes these statements. Correcting the person will simply convince them that you don't know or care about what they are experiencing.

It is best to reassure the person of the following:

1. They are safe.

2. You have taken care of the problem or your intention to take care of it. (This is a statement, you do not necessarily act on it)

3. You understand the patient is concerned and upset by what they are seeing or hearing.

Supported by: Iowa Scottish Rite Masonic Foundation,
National Caregiving Training Project,
University of Iowa College of Nursing,
Gerontology Nursing Intervention Center
Research Development and intervention Core

Developed by: Geri R. Hall, Ph.D., ARNP, CNS
Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist
Mayo Clinic Scottsdale
13400 E. Shea Boulvard
Scottsdale, Arizona 85259
Phone: 602-301-8111


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