06 May Common Dementia-Related Behaviors and How to Handle Them
For those who have never watched a loved one struggle with dementia, it can be difficult to understand how drastically an individual’s behaviors can change over the course of this illness. Dementia does far more than cause an individual to be forgetful. It can cause them to act completely unlike themselves, and many family members struggle with knowing how to deal with these dementia-related behaviors. If your family member or other loved one is struggling with dementia, here are a few common behaviors you might notice, and some tips for dealing with these behaviors.
Many Alzheimer’s and dementia patients display aggressive speech or behavior over the course of their illness. These aggressive episodes will often become more sever and more frequent as the condition progresses. Often, seemingly small issues can quickly escalate into aggressive behavior for a dementia patient.
As a caretaker or loved one, this can be extremely frightening and frustrating to deal with. But it’s important to remember that this type of behavior is usually stemming from a place of fear. Your loved one may be uncomfortable or in pain, or may be confused, and simply not know the best way to communicate this to you. This makes them more likely to kick, hit, or bite in response to their feelings of fear or helplessness.
This best thing to do in these situations is to first identify the trigger of the aggressive behavior, and remove it as best you can. Redirect the person’s attention to something else, and speak in a calm and reassuring voice. Don’t respond aggressively yourself, and only physically restrain the person if it is absolutely necessary to protect them or those around them.
Feelings of confusion are extremely common among those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Your loved one may ask you questions about where they are, where a certain person is, or when they will be going home; this is especially common after you’ve moved your loved one into a care facility. You may even find them packing their items to leave the facility, convinced that it is time for them to go back home.
Remember in these situations that your loved one’s cognitive functions are gradually declining, and you cannot usually reason with the patient. Often, lengthy explanations and difficult questions can agitate the person’s feelings of confusion, and could even lead to aggressive responses, as described above.
Rather, offer simple explanations to their questions, providing tangible reminders like photos and mementos wherever possible. If your loved one seems particularly confused, and is becoming upset over their confusion, it may be best to simply redirect them. Rather than trying to explain why they are no longer living at home, find another activity to do with them, like going on a walk, and change the subject to something less upsetting.
While each situation is different, your goal should usually be to determine what response will make your loved one feel safest. In some cases, that may include telling a comforting lie, such as, “It’s too late to go home tonight.”
The deterioration of brain cells caused by Alzheimer’s and dementia can cause patients to suffer from poor judgment, or illogical thought processes. Your loved one might accuse a caretaker or family member of stealing from them, or they may begin hoarding or stockpiling certain items. They may develop beliefs that you recognize as absurd, but which they vehemently insist are true. All of these can be attributed to the progression of their condition.
While behaviors like unfounded accusations and hoarding may be quite obvious, there are other, more subtle instances of poor judgment that can be early indicators of the disease’s progression. These may include struggling with financial records or simple mathematic calculations.
The first thing to do in these situations is to assess how serious the problem is. You may want to look at their utility bills to see if they’ve been paid on time, or their checkbook and bank records to look for overdraft fees or other miscalculations. Then, offer your help wherever you can. You may volunteer to set up automatic payments on their utility bills, or help them balance their checkbook once a month.
Whatever kind of assistance you offer, make sure it is done in a gentle, encouraging manner to avoid frustration and embarrassment. Don’t blatantly question their ability to handle the situation, or try to argue with them. This will likely only upset them, and make them defensive, which means they will be less likely to accept help.
If your loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, and you’re struggling to provide the care they need, look into a memory care facility that can provide them with the help they need. Best for My Parents can help pair you with a facility that will meet your needs, at no cost to you. Contact us today to learn more.