Confusion … and How Seniors Can Cope

By Kerry Knight

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With many seniors, a state of mind termed “confusion” has become a serious safety concern.  It refers to mental state wherein one losses the ability to a recognize people and places.  There is typically a problem with remembering specific dates or knowing the time of day.  Sometimes, it can affect a person’s ability to make decisions, even simple ones.  It can be accompanied with feelings of disorientation and depression.

Confusion, as a medical condition, can sometimes begin suddenly, but more often than not, its detrimental effects manifest themselves more gradually over time. Confusion has multiple causes, including injury, medications, environmental factors, and medical conditions.

Whereas once this medical condition was referred to as “old timer’s syndrome,” further studies and advances in the neurology and imaging have now identified specific physiological conditions in the brain that cause a specific disease state.

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A German woman, by the name of Auguste Deter, was the first to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 1901. The condition is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, who treated Mrs. Deter.  Her early symptoms were observed when the doctor was treating her. While she was eating lunch, the doctor asked her what she was eating.  “Spinach,” she said.  However, she was eating meat.  He then asked her about her husband.  “What is his name?” She would reply, “Auguste, I believe.”  However, that was her name; not her husband’s.

Alzheimer’s Disease is a neurological disorder in which the death of brain cells induces memory loss and cognitive decline. A neurodegenerative type of dementia, the disease starts off with mild symptoms but over time, progressively worsens. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia — a group of brain disorders that results in the loss of intellectual and social skills. These changes can eventually become severe enough to interfere with day-to-day life.

The cognitive confusion Dr. Alzheimner witnessed in Mrs. Deter required him to take extra precautions to protect her safety.

A state of “confusion” in a senior doesn’t necessarily mean that person has Alzheimer’s Disease, nonetheless it does mean one should take every precaution to ensure a higher degree of safety in their living quarters.  

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Let me offer some suggestions:
  • The senior should use sturdy canes or walkers if they’re having a problem with balance or have other physical issues that impair their ability to get around and ambulate themselves. If there are major ambulatory issues, consider getting a wheelchair.  
  • Install a Walk-in Tub in their bath with grab bars and slip-resistant floor and seat to provide independent bathing. The Walk-in tub also has a very low access and egress threshold, which makes it easier for seniors with ambulatory issues to get in and out of the Walk-in tub. Along with its built-in safety features, you may consider adding the air-jetted hydrotherapy model, which can help relax the body.  Adding water-jetted massage can also help alleviate their aches and pains.  This will help keep their body comfortable, more pliable and possibly healthier, which in turn, can improve their mental state.
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  • Another option is installing a Safety Shower Suite.  You can custom-order a Low-Threshold model, with a four-inch step over into the shower, or a No-Threshold model, which can accommodate wheelchairs and walkers. These showers can be customized to accommodate each client in terms of the type of seat included (built-in, fold-down or four-legged), seat placement, placement of the temperature control knob (with safety grab bar above it), hand-held shower, and drain.  Also consider installing its safety-designed bathroom accessories. The toilet paper roll, shelf and towel rack all come equipped with sturdy grab bars.
  •  Replace hardwood floors with padded carpeted floors to reduce injuries from falling on hard surfaces.  Avoid placing throw rugs on hardwood floors as these can slip and cause someone with unsteady gate to fall.  Or, at the very least, they may pull or strain a muscle as they quickly try to regain their balance.
  • Use hearing aids or glasses when needed and provide good lighting to diminish the negative effects of hearing loss and visual problems.
  • Some seniors require the use of phones with extra large numbers for them to dial easily. Or, if you can pre-program one-call buttons for their key contacts, this could make things easier.
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  • If your senior has the ability to participate a senior-oriented exercise class (pool-based or otherwise), enroll them in it. Regular exercise will help keep their heart, lungs, muscles, bones and joints in better shape and may help with their cognitive functioning as well.
  • Manage medications by taking advantage of pill boxes when keeping track of medications. Discuss with their primary care physician all the drugs different specialists may have prescribed. Sometimes the different medicines can interact negatively with each other. Minimize or delete any non-essential prescriptions (as almost all drugs can produce negative side effects).
  • If necessary, hire caregivers or use assistance from family members if activities in the senior’s daily life become difficult.
  • Consider getting your senior a self-monitoring system such Life Alert (Remember the advertisement, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”?). The system is designed to deal with medical emergencies, fire emergencies, CO gas emergencies, intrusion emergencies; and now can provide emergency mobile phones and a specific app for cell phones.
  • Schedule routine sleep and wake times to improve sleep quality and daytime efficiency.
  • Plan regular social activities for your senior to improve social interactions.
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  • Consider getting them a pet for them to care for.  This is tricky and depends upon the physical and mental health of your senior.  While caring for a loving, docile pet has proven beneficial to seniors (and humans in general), there are added costs and concerns. For example, if the animal could possibly get underfoot, causing the senior to trip, this would be a problem. Also, if they’re physically or mentally unable to care for the animal, then a pet isn’t an option.
If you’re a senior or maybe you have a senior in the family, take every precaution to keep their body and mind safe from injury (yours, too!).  It will perhaps lengthen their make their “Golden Years” more productive and fulfilling.

In this article, I discussed the issue of senior “confusion” and also gave a brief history/overview of Alzheimer’s Disease. I then discussed various steps one can take to ensure their senior can It then discusses various steps one can take to ensure their senior can remain safer at home, and in particular, the bathroom, such as installing a Walk-in Tub and/or a Safety Suite Shower.  If you found this article useful, please share it with your friends and co-workers.

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If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the Comment section of this blog.  If you’d like to receive a FREE Walk-In Tub Buyers’Guide, click here.  Have a question? Feel free to contact me at the number or email listed at the end of this article and I’ll personally get back to you. It’s been my pleasure sharing this information with you.

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Alan and Kerry Knight are the owners of Tub King, Inc., and  in Jacksonville, Florida. Together they have many years of experience in the antique and senior bathtub industries. Their companies not only provide superior products, they are also award winners, receiving the “Best of Jacksonville Chamber Award” four years running. If you’d like to contact them, call (800) 409-3375 or (800) 843-4231; or send an email to

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