Dementia is a syndrome that affects 50 million people worldwide. The deterioration of a senior’s ability to reason, remember and function in daily life also impacts their behavior. Although dementia is common, the condition is not a normal aspect of aging.
A senior with dementia is likely to display uncharacteristic behavior problems. Since dementia leads to disability and reliance on caregivers, it is important that loved ones identify the behavioral changes that result from the condition and understand how to best care for the senior.
What causes behavioral problems?
A senior who suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease has started to lose neurons (cells) in the brain. As the condition progresses, behavioral changes are the unavoidable outcome. The types of behavioral changes that occur depend on what parts of the brain are losing neurons.
Seniors with dementia can unexpectedly resort to rudeness and insensitivity. Such changes occur when the brain’s frontal lobes lose neurons. The frontal lobes control impulses, the ability to focus, be attentive and stay motivated; so, when cells die in this region, the senior’s personality is affected.
Anger and frustration can overcome seniors with dementia, especially since they are no longer able to follow conversations or understand what is going on in their environment. Loud noises and crowds can be overstimulating, being too difficult for them to process and comprehend.
Pain and infection can cause seniors with dementia to engage in angry outbursts. Dementia patients experiencing painful medical conditions may be unable to communicate or describe their pain, causing them to shut down or lash out. Medications, too, can cause behavior issues.
What is the acronym DICE?
Caregivers and family members providing care for a senior suffering from dementia should implement DICE, a tool designed to help caregivers understand and respond to dementia-related behavior. The acronym DICE provides a four-step plan that can be used under challenging circumstances.
First, caregivers should describe what happens (D). Second, investigation into the possible causes is recommended (I). Thirdly, caregivers and family members are encouraged to create a workable plan (C). Lastly, they are advised to evaluate the plan for efficacy (E).
How do caregivers handle aggression?
A dementia patient’s angry outbursts can be scary for those around them. Seniors with dementia who resort to aggression may react violently, going so far as kicking, pushing and hitting people. If the situation gets out of control and caregivers feel in danger, they should call 911.
Caregivers should respond by allowing the senior space and time to calm down. Loud background noise (such as television or radio) should be turned off. If the senior falsely accuses the caregiver, respond with soothing words. Do not argue, criticize or engage in confrontational body language (crossing arms).
How do caregivers handle delusions?
Memory loss can cause delusions and hallucinations in people living with dementia. These seniors may believe they have to pick up their children from daycare, although their kids are adults. Affected seniors may become paranoid, thinking a spouse is cheating on them or others are stealing from them.
Rather than argue with the senior’s delusions or hallucinations, attempt to distract the individual by starting a new conversation or complimenting them. Reassuring statements also work, such as, “The children are at school.” Try not to take the senior’s delusions personally, as they are an outcome of the disease.
It is important to note that seniors with dementia are at risk for being victims of fraud and theft. Caregivers should investigate the senior’s accusations before concluding they are false or due to the condition. Often, the senior will have simply misplaced the item; help them locate it.
How do caregivers handle impulsive behavior?
Since dementia can impair self-control, affected seniors may behave erratically, such as asking awkward questions, making rude or suggestive comments or driving aggressively. Staying calm and keeping a sense of humor in such situations softens the awkwardness in social settings.
Family members are advised to forewarn friends and family about the senior’s impulsive behavior. Pull out awareness cards to discreetly inform others that the behavior is caused by a brain disorder. Consider offering a stuffed animal or pet therapy if the senior seeks more physical affection.
How do caregivers handle wandering?
Wandering affects any mobile person with memory problems. Seniors may be attracted to shiny objects in the environment or feel the urge to “go somewhere.” Disorientation may occur. Wandering is harmful when the senior is at risk for becoming lost, injured or being taken advantage of.
Caregivers are advised to provide local police and fire departments with their phone number in case the senior wanders and gets lost. Install an alarm or chime to alert the caregiver when the senior exits the home. Daily routines are important, since overstimulation and changes can trigger wandering.
Keeping those with dementia safe from COVID-19
Senior citizens are among the most likely to experience severe symptoms from COVID-19. This makes it especially important for caregivers to help protect those who suffer with dementia by encouraging preventative behaviors:
- Make sure they have plenty of medication and are stocked up on other medical supplies.
- Wear a mask regularly to help prevent the spread of the virus.
- Help them avoid touching high touch surfaces as well as their face.
- Remind or help them wash their hands often for 20 seconds using soap and water.
- Clean and disinfect the home regularly, especially high touch areas and items.
- Avoid going out in public and instead arrange to have the grocery shopping and other errands done by a family member or caregiver.
- Monitor their condition for any possible coronavirus symptoms, including fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
- If a senior shows symptoms, call their doctor to let them know about the symptoms and they will advise you on what to do next.
- Seek immediate medical attention for severe symptoms including difficulty breathing, chest pain or pressure, confusion, bluish lips and face.
Dementia Care Providers
Seniors living with dementia may display several behavior changes that impact their daily lives. Professional caregivers with dementia training, like those from Assisting Hands Home Care, possess the skill, patience and compassion necessary to return their care recipients to a calm and comfortable state every day.
Memory care providers from Assisting Hands Home Care are experienced in caring for seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Our dementia caregivers are knowledgeable about this irreversible, progressive brain condition and see beyond the dementia symptoms to care for the individual.
We handle agitation, incontinence, delusions, wandering and forgetfulness with compassion. Assisting Hands Home Care dementia staff provide pleasant companionship to ease the loneliness often felt by dementia patients. We provide supervision when seniors wander and gently return them to safety.
In addition to our comprehensive memory care services, Assisting Hands Home Care providers offer discreet personal care. Meal preparation is included so that your loved one consumes balanced meals daily. We provide medication reminders to seniors who are prescribed medications.
Assisting Hands Home Care is dedicated to meeting all the non-medical care needs of our dementia patients. Our reputable and trustworthy memory care services are available in the communities in and surrounding Richmond, Virginia. Call us for specialized dementia care services and improve your loved one’s quality of life.