Changes in the brain that are associated with dementia can lead to difficult and unpredictable thinking and behavior. For example, your loved one may become anxious around family members or friends whom he or she may not recognize, may become suspicious and suffer from delusions, may begin to withdraw from social interaction, become aggressive, wander, and/or become angry and irritable. Dementia can be as challenging for the senior’s caregiver as it is for the person living with it. You, as a caregiver, need to remember that the person with dementia is not doing anything intentionally when they display behaviors as a side effect of the disorder. Put yourself in their shoes, and you’ll understand they may be extremely stressed as they live their lives in an uncertain and confusing world.
Thankfully, there are ways to deal with the unpredictable behaviors of seniors with dementia. Read on:
To start with, caregivers need to continually evaluate the behavior of the person whom they are looking after due to dementia being progressive. Talking about examining the behaviors, ask yourself whether the older adult’s change in behavior is harmful, if something triggered it, was it a consequence of another illness or medication, most importantly, as a caregiver is it required in any way on your part to change your reactions or behavior towards him.
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Here’s how you can deal with these difficult and changing behaviors:
Anxiety and Agitation– In individuals suffering from dementia, anxiety and agitation can be triggered by something as simple as confusion over the time of day. Then there are pain, hunger, and the need for sleep, which can act as a trigger. Maintaining a daily routine and some amount of patience (on the part of caregivers) can go a long way towards coping with these behaviors.
Anger and Aggression– You might be in for a surprise when you see your loved one who has never been physically abusive or used profanity in their lives, doing the same at the drop of a hat. As per experts, most aggressive behaviors are a way of communicating pain, so look if something is troubling them or if they need something, instead of losing your cool.
Repetitive Actions- Repeatedly answering the same questions or providing the same information might test your patience, but when you are caring for someone with dementia you need to stay prepared for these. It is only patience that can help you sail through these situations.
Suspicion– You may see your loved one growing suspicious of others and accusing them of wrongdoings, you might as well be at the receiving end. They may misunderstand what they have heard. More often than not, these suspicions are a way to make up for missing memories. Calmly deal with such situations. Just remember, as the disease progresses people can get very mistrustful.
Trouble with sleep– Sleep pattern changes or the inability to fall asleep is common in individuals with dementia. To deal with this problem, encourage your loved one to exercise during the day, which might encourage him to spend some time outdoors. To normalize sleep habits, maintain consistent sleep and daily routines; limit daytime sleep to 15- to 20-minute naps; increase daytime activity, including physical activity such as walking or dancing; avoid caffeine too close to bedtime; provide a light bedtime snack to prevent hunger as a cause of agitation, etc.
You might as well notice behaviors like forgetfulness and confusion, changes in ability to communicate, wandering and getting lost, among others. The best ways to respond to such unpredictable behaviors of dementia include staying calm, staying positive, being patient, identifying the root cause, reassuring and explaining, modifying the environment if necessary, and looking for ways to redirect focus.
As a caregiver, your own health should be your top priority. You may need to seek help from a professional as caring for someone with dementia can take its toll on both your physical and emotional health.