Unfortunately, there is a long list of common behavioral changes caused by dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. As the disease deteriorates brain cells, the person suffering with dementia can exhibit paranoia, depression, outbursts, agitation, aggression and an overall lack of judgement. It is very difficult to watch a loved one’s personality and behavior change, but knowing that the changes are the result of the disease can help you to cope with them and calm your loved one. Here are the common behavior changes caused by dementia.
- Aggression and anger
- Anxiety and depression
- Memory loss and confusion
- Sleep issues and sundowning
- Suspicions and paranoia
Even though the disease is at the root of these symptoms, they may be exacerbated by pain, environmental factors or physical discomfort. Trying to figure out what is upsetting a person suffering from dementia is much like trying to figure out what is upsetting a baby who cannot speak. Neither can express themselves but both have feelings and emotions that need to be respected and attended to. When you observe any of the symptoms listed above, ask yourself a series of questions. You may find that there is something behind the behavior that can be modified to increase the comfort of your loved one.
- Is the environment noisy or overstimulating?
- Are there too many people, is there too much activity or too much clutter around your loved one? If so simplify the environment to make it calmer, cooler, and quieter. If your loved one is in the middle or late stages of dementia, he or she may not be able to express what is agitating them.
- Is someone asking too many questions? It may make your loved one feel threatened.
- Is your loved one taking new medications? Have they had surgery or another medical procedure that could be causing swelling, discomfort or pain?
Has there been a recent change in your loved one’s environment? Did he or she move to a new facility or a new room? Has there been a change in nurses or other healthcare providers?
- Are the people around your loved one stressed? If so, he or she may be picking up on that stress.
- Is your loved one exhausted from trying to make sense of the world around them? Do they need a quiet environment with little stimuli to truly rest?
- Is your loved one experiencing physical pain? Are they hungry, thirsty, constipated, too hot or too cold?
- Does your loved one have a bladder or urinary tract infection? This can cause an increase in dementia symptoms.
- Is it late in the day when your loved one is tired? Is it the time of day when your loved one spouse usually returned home or dinner was prepared? These daily events are instilled in our deep memory and the dementia patient may become agitated when that internal clock alarms.
- Is the temperature in their room correct, or is it too hot or too cold? It may be preventing them from sleeping well.
Dementia patients suffer from a wide range of behavioral changes as the disease changes the brain cells. However, it is important to remember that physical, mental and emotional comfort can prevent some of these behaviors from occurring. In other cases, compassion, reassurance and a change of environment can comfort your loved one and reduce the agitation and aggression.