Understanding dementia and how it relates to memory loss isn’t easy. However, managing dementia behaviors and understanding how it affects understanding (cognition), anger and judgment are very difficult for most caregivers.
Dementia is a general term used to describe a variety of conditions that occur when there’s a loss of memory and a decline in other mental abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life. Researchers estimate that among those who live past the age of 55, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 10 men will develop some form of dementia in their lifetime.
Dementia is caused by structural abnormalities in the brain tissue. Researchers believe these abnormalities can result from a variety of factors, including amyloid plaques, repeated head trauma, excessive alcohol and/or drug consumption and severe vitamin deficiencies. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, AIDS, Syphilis, brain tumors, and metabolic disorders can also cause dementia.
4 Most Common Dementia Behaviors
You may be asking yourself, “how do I manage the changes in behaviors?” You will have to manage a variety of unusual behavioral changes, ranging from poor impulse control and social disinhibition to extreme caution and anxiety. Bringing in an expert on dementia care can help anticipate issues around the corner and help you implement a dementia plan of care to stem issues as they arise.
The four most common dementia behaviors include:
- Vision and Balance – Occipital Lobe
- Sensory Perceptions – Parietal Lobe
- Personality, Judgement, and Impulse Control – Frontal Lobe
- Language – Temporal Lobe
Vision and Balance
The occipital lobe often affects vision and balance—which can lead to unusual behaviors. For example, if your loved one’s peripheral vision is impaired, they may be startled or agitated if someone approaches them from the back or side. If their depth perception or balance is affected, they may walk more slowly and cautiously since they can’t accurately judge stair or curb heights or other parts of their surroundings.
When caring for dementia patients it’s important to realize that extremely cautious walking may indicate vision problems and/or a lack of balance. Unfortunately, these issues usually can’t be resolved with better eyeglasses. That’s because vision problems related to dementia aren’t typically caused by poor eye function; they’re caused by improper processing of the visual information in the occipital lobe of the brain.
The parietal lobe of the brain is the center of sensory perceptions. When dementia affects the parietal lobe, it can cause unusual behaviors related to temperature perception and smells. For example, your loved one with dementia may go outside in freezing weather dressed only in shorts and a t-shirt, and not seem to feel cold—and they may go outside in the middle of summer wearing a three-piece suit and an overcoat, and not seem to feel hot. Or, they may not be able to recognize pungent odors, even ones as noxious as ammonia or gasoline.
Caring for someone with dementia involves understanding unusual behaviors and mitigating the risks that come with them. For instance, all cleaning products and other poisonous substances need to be removed from the home or stored safely behind latched cabinet doors.
Personality, Judgement and Impulse Control
The frontal lobe of the brain plays an essential role in executive functioning, organized thought, judgment, and impulse control. For those of us with intact frontal lobes, it’s possible to see something, think about it, and keep that thought to ourselves. However, someone who has dementia that impacts their frontal lobe may see the same thing and then blurt out thoughts, without any regard for how their words will be perceived by others.
For example, a person with an affected frontal lobe may see an obese person and say, “Wow, you are huge!” Or at a buffet, a person with limited impulse control may grab a piece of cake—even if the cake hasn’t been sliced yet.
The temporal lobe is responsible for both expressive and receptive language. If this part of the brain is affected by dementia, your loved one may experience difficulties expressing themselves clearly, or they may have difficulty understanding language and verbal cues. For example, they may use jumbled words in a sentence that doesn’t seem to make sense. Or, they may repeat a sound in a specific cadence, such as “Dee dee dee dee dee, dee, dee dee.”
Communicating with dementia patients can be quite challenging when these types of behaviors occur, and rather than speaking, you may need to rely on writing, visual cues, and gestures. Please note that someone with dementia may be able to understand what is being said, even if they are not able to express themselves clearly.
Every person, and every family, will experience the effects of dementia differently. That’s why your loved one needs dementia care developed specifically for them. LivHOME experts understand the complexities of dementia care, and we’ll work with you to improve the health, safety, and overall well-being of your loved one while bringing greater peace of mind to the whole family.