Caring for Someone who is Confused

Confusion at the End of Life

Some common causes of confusion in hospice patients include: high fever, pain, some medications, unfamiliar surroundings, fluid around the brain or not getting enough oxygen to the brain.

Call Hope immediately if confusion begins suddenly or worsens, if your loved one becomes violent, or if injury occurs.

Communicating with a Confused Loved One

  • Stay within a few feet of your loved while talking, and touch them during conversation if appropriate 
  • Face your loved one, speak slowly, and use short statements 
  • Give your loved one time to respond to your statements
  • Tell them who you are, what you are doing and why
  • Give step by step explanations when assisting with things like dressing, bathing, changing bed linens 

Helpful Hints for Dealing with Confusion

  • Turn off the TV or radio during conversations or when your loved one is sleeping
  • Write down answers to frequently asked questions, then remind them to look at the message
  • Follow routines and keep familiar objects nearby
  • If confusion leads to problem behaviors, use distraction: start talking about childhood or a favorite topic, show them magazines or photos
  • Avoid denying hallucinations, instead try, “You spoke with your mother? I miss my mother too.” 

Help Protect a Confused Loved One from Injury

  • Don’t leave your loved one alone for long periods of time
  • Assist your loved one with going to the bathroom and with daily activities
  • Keep side rails up on the bed when leaving your loved one
  • Inform Hope staff of any potentially dangerous behaviors or hallucinations