Mental confusion, disorientation and memory impairment are signs usually present with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. They are some of the hardest aspects for caregivers to manage. Most caregivers quickly learn how to calm and ground their loved one when difficult behaviors and irrational thoughts occur. But one symptom, paranoia, affects not only those with Alzheimer’s but individuals with forms of mental illness, like schizophrenia.
According to an article from the recent issue of Today’s Caregiver, being able to recognize signs of paranoia enables caregivers to respond appropriately and implement techniques to help a loved one. Caregivers often feel ill-equipped to handle serious mental illness issues. The following information from the article explains the symptoms of paranoia and how best to approach it.
Signs of paranoia:
- Suspicion – Part of the thought process of paranoia is the belief that people are talking about them or have conspired to plot against them. These fears can be projected onto totally innocent acts and conversations.
- Isolation – Typically, paranoid people avoid being around others, in part due to distrust and suspicion.
- Delusional – A common delusional thought process is a sense of grandeur – often believing they have been chosen by or are a superior being or power.
- Always on guard – Paranoid people have a difficult time relaxing and are frequently hyper-vigilant about others and their own surroundings.
How caregivers might respond:
- Don’t mention the paranoia – Telling someone they are being paranoid just feeds into the belief system. The loved one may become agitated.
- Talk down the “plot” – If they believe there are plots against them, it’s best to introduce something that will help the loved one relax. Then you can ask them to tell you why they think there’s a plot.
- Something is stolen – One paranoid belief is someone is stealing from them. The article suggests you help them look for the item.
- Avoid crowds – Someone with paranoia will find crowds overwhelming and may exacerbate their symptoms.
It’s very important to inform the doctor if you suspect your loved one is paranoid. There are medications that are very effective for paranoia symptoms.