As a caregiver, it can be hard to cope with the changes in behavior in someone affected by dementia.
Whether it’s Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, communication is one of the first areas to be affected by the disease. In the earlier stages, the person with dementia might even be aware of little slips, like forgetting birthdays or difficulty with decision making.
As the disease progresses, sufferers can even forget things that seem unforgettable, like family members and directions home.
The most important thing to remember when dealing with someone with dementia is to stay calm. The person with dementia isn’t lashing out on purpose. As the disease progresses, a person with dementia will grow increasingly confused and disoriented, potentially leading to frequent mood swings. It can be hard to predict what will trigger such outbursts, but it’s often due to physical discomfort or another form of stress.
The best way to deal with aggressive behavior is to address whatever is causing the issue rather than engaging in an argument. Some caregivers rely on validation therapy, also called therapeutic fibs, to cope. By going along with the “reality” that the dementia patient is experiencing, you allow them to express their feelings and avoid blow-ups.
Dementia is defined as a disorder that affects mental processes leading to impaired reasoning. It’s common for people living with dementia to become confused and demand to “go home” if they’re in a care facility or visiting somewhere unfamiliar. Even some medications designed to treat dementia can lead to an increase in disorientation and agitation. Again, avoid arguing with someone who has dementia and is upset; it’s not worth it.
Instead, try to calm them with simple explanations. You can also use photos and other items to help the person remember relationships and places.
If your loved one seems to be mentally trapped in a specific period, travel back in time with them. Engage them with conversation and questions as if you were back there with them.
Trouble with Decision Making
As dementia progresses, it becomes harder and harder for patients to make sound decisions. Frequently, children notice this when their parents suddenly can’t manage finances, or lash out unexpectedly. Avoid confronting someone with dementia about their inability to manage their affairs. It will only serve to increase stress and might lead to the patient to refuse help.
Above all else, it’s important to know you’re not alone. Join ALZConnected, the Alzheimer’s Association’s online support community, and share what response strategies have worked for you and get more ideas from other caregivers.