A Family’s Guide to Understanding Dementia Behaviors
Living with and caring for a loved one with dementia is challenging. It is hard for family members and friends to understand the behaviors associated with dementia, Alzheimer’s and other progressive brain disorders. This is especially true because these conditions gradually worsen over time, so it can be difficult to keep up with mental and behavioral changes as they fluctuate. For people with symptoms of dementia, their memory, communication, thought process and ability to care for themselves are all affected. Being aware of these behaviors is the key to understanding how to help the person maintain a dignified, quality life.
Below are some of the most common behaviors of someone experiencing dementia. Discussed are the characteristics of these behaviors, and how family members and friends can help their loved ones through the difficult challenges associated with dementia.
Aggression/Mood Swings: These behaviors aren’t intentional and are always triggered by something. Triggers could be the environment, discomfort or simply a symptom of miscommunication. Sometimes aggressive behavior and mood swings occur out of fear. It’s important to not get argumentative, and understand that the aggression is not deliberate. Make sure the person is not putting themselves, or others, in harms way before trying to redirect their attention to something else in an attempt stop the behavior.
Repetitive Behaviors: For people with dementia, memory decline encourages them to repeat actions and behaviors over and over again, not remembering they’ve already done it once. This behavior can mean a number of things. The person may be suffering from boredom, seek the feeling of purpose, or feel anxious. Try to be patient and encourage a new activity that you can do together, explaining each step in a simple manner.
Poor Judgment/Cognitive Difficulties: Deterioration of brain cells is the cause of judgment and cognitive problems. Be encouraging, reassuring and do your best to respond without making the person feel embarrassed. Offer to help with things that the person is experiencing difficulty, like finances, appointments and other day-to-day tasks.
Communication Issues: Losing the ability to communicate effectively and clearly is one of the most difficult symptoms of dementia. The inability to express themselves and understand what others are saying is very frustrating for the senior, as well as their loved ones. Be patient and caring, not condescending. Pay close attention to the body language you exhibit, and use appropriate bodily cues. Adjust the environment for better communication. Turn off the TV and avoid any unnecessary background noise.
Paranoia/Suspicion: These feelings arise due to declining memory, an inability to recognize people, and the desire to decipher and understand what is happening in the environment. Suspicions are unintentional and can be directed at anyone, like a neighbor, the mailman, or the most caring and supportive family members. Remember not to dismiss the person’s accusations or suspicions until you’ve deemed them untrue. Then, try to reassure the person and redirect their attention elsewhere.
For more information on caring for a loved one with dementia, contact AT Home Care.