For her whole adult life, Mom has been quiet, reserved, and kind to everyone. Her friends and family have always known they could count on her to provide wise advice without judgment or condescension. Yet suddenly, since her dementia has begun to progress, it’s as though a switch has been flipped. Mom has become belligerent, angry, and rude. What happened? Is this what to expect with dementia?
Unfortunately, personality and behavioral changes such as this are quite common in someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. They’re part of the natural progression of the disease’s impact on brain cells. Other changes you may notice include:
- Disinterest in previously enjoyed activities and hobbies
- Anger, anxiety, and depression
- Pacing and wandering
- Hiding items, or thinking others have hidden things from them
- Inappropriate sexual behaviors
- Hitting you or others
- Misinterpreting reality, including seeing or hearing things that aren’t there
- Neglecting personal hygiene
The first step if you notice any of these changes in a senior loved one is to schedule a checkup with the doctor. There are a variety of other health conditions that could be causing the changes, so it’s important to rule those out first.
If it’s determined that the changes are dementia-related, there are ways to help manage them more effectively:
- Limit distractions. Turn down (or off) the TV or radio, and limit time spent with groups of people talking, all of which can add to confusion and frustration.
- Make simple alterations to the home accordingly. If looking in the mirror frightens the senior, take down or cover mirrors. If a comforter with busy patterns leads the senior to believe there are bugs crawling on it, replace it with a solid colored one.
- Avoid asking open-ended questions. Phrase your statements and questions simply, giving a choice of two answers. For instance, “It’s time for lunch. Would you like tuna or chicken today?”
- Create and adhere to a daily schedule and routine.
- Pay attention to what the senior may be feeling, rather than what is being said. Someone with dementia who is lashing out angrily may actually be feeling fear or worry. Offer reassurance that the person you are there to help, and that he or she is safe.
- Never argue or correct someone with dementia. If you find yourself becoming angry or upset, step away for a few minutes (if it’s safe to do so) to calm down; or try deep breathing and counting slowly to ten.
Knowing what to expect with dementia and how to provide the best care for someone you love isn’t easy. A trusted, professional care partner, like Nightingale Homecare, can help tremendously with education, resources, and respite care services.
With Nightingale Homecare, the leading providers of in-home care in Paradise Valley, AZ and surrounding areas, you’re never alone. Call us at (602) 505-1555 to learn more about the ways we can make life better for a senior you love with dementia and allow you a healthy life balance as well.