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Dementia is known to disrupt memory, language, thinking, and reasoning, but these cognitive symptoms aren’t the only changes associated with the disease. Throughout the stages of dementia, at least 90% of people will experience behavioral and psychological symptoms, too. Many families and loved ones of those suffering tend to find these behavioral symptoms of dementia more challenging to deal with than the cognitive symptoms. 

Behavioral Symptoms of Dementia

The behavioral symptoms of dementia can be overwhelming to handle alone. While these changes in behaviors can be distressing, it is important to pay attention to your loved one’s moods and behaviors so you can discuss them with the doctor, as well as help care for your loved one so they can better handle the changes. Click To Tweet If you notice these or worsening symptoms of dementia, it may be time to consider memory care options.

Repetitive Behaviors

People with dementia may repeat what they do or say over and over and over again. This is common with progressive dementia and is the deterioration of brain cells. Many times a person suffering dementia will not remember what just happened, or what they just asked. People who continue repeating the same question might be trying to express a certain concern such as frustration, anxiety, insecurity or they might need help.

There are a few  ways to respond and helped your loved one when they get stuck in these repetitive behaviors:

  • Monitor and look for a reason for the repetition. Is it happening at a certain time of day? What emotion is in their voice?
  • If they keep asking a question, provide an answer–even if you have to repeat yourself many times.
  • Engage them in a pleasant activity and help prevent them from becoming bored.
  • Stay calm and patient. Be reassuring with a gentle voice. Dementia affects memory and they might not realize they have asked the question multiple times.
  • Use memory aids like calendars, pictures, and notes to help them remember things.

Moods and Emotions

Other behavioral symptoms those with dementia experience are sadness, depression, mood swings, and thoughts of hopelessness. They might also show signs of anxiety, panic, tension or over elevated mood. Depression and elevated mood are commonly associated with irritability and unease. These emotions can also be aggravated by hunger, sleepiness, and pain.

Here are a few ways to help keep your loved one free from depressive moods and irritability:

  • If you suspect depression, consult a medical professional for proper diagnosis.
  • Keep your loved one on a scheduled and planned daily routine.
  • Help get your loved one moving every day. Exercise helps combat depression and boosts mood. Morning workouts are great for helping dementia patients have better days.
  • Provide reassurance they are loved and respected and still a part of the family.
  • Nurture them with their favorite foods and activities.

Delusional Thoughts

It is not uncommon for those with dementia to have delusional thoughts or hallucinations. They may see, smell, taste or hear things that aren’t there, and it can be frightening for them, and you. These false perceptions are a result of the disease and typically occurs in the latter stages.

Here are few ways to respond when your loved one is experiencing hallucinations or delusions:

  • First and foremost, be cautious. Assess the situation and determine whether the hallucination is upsetting to your loved one. Will it lead them to do something dangerous?
  • Reassure them with gentle, compassionate words.
  • Do not argue about what they are seeing, hearing, or feeling.
  • If there is no danger and your loved one is not upset by the hallucination, there is no need to intervene.
  • Use distractions to get their mind off the hallucination. Suggest doing a new activity or moving to another room.

Change in Appetite

During the mid and later stages of dementia, getting your loved one to eat healthy and nutritious meals might become a challenge. Dementia patients tend to crave sugary foods and it is common for them to become overwhelmed with too many food choices. Weight loss is prevalent with dementia patients due to hypermetabolism and inflammatory processes, in relation to hormonal disturbances. 

Here are some great ways to increase your loved one’s appetite and maintain proper nutrition:

  • Make the food look and smell appealing. Try different foods and see which ones they like best.
  • Give them their favorite foods. Learn what they like and dislike.
  • Do not overload the plate and overwhelm them. Small and regular portions are best to present on a plate.
  • Don’t let the food get cold. Use a plate warmer or serve half portions to keep food hot and savory.
  • Encourage your loved one to get involved at mealtime.
  • Eat in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and use eating as a social activity to engage in conversation.

Sleep Issues

Many people with dementia deal with sleep issues or sundowning, which is an increase in behavioral problems that begin at sundown. Studies indicate that many patients experience these changes late in the day, and the body’s disruption to the sleep-wake-cycle can cause additional behavioral problems.

Here are a few ways to help your loved one cope with sleep issues and sundowning:

  • Create a comfortable and safe sleep environment. Provide nightlights and other ways to keep your loved one feeling safe, such as window locks, and motion sensors.
  • Keep them on a schedule. Dementia patients do best when they adhere to a regular routine. Let waking up, eating, and going to sleep be at the same time each day.
  • Avoid stimulants like coffee, high sugar treats, and nicotine. Discourage watching the television or the internet an hour before bed, because they can be stimulating.
  • Be more active during the day. A person who engages in exercise will sleep better.
  • Discourage afternoon napping. If they sleep too much during the day, it will be difficult for them to sleep at night.

Managing Behavioral Symptoms of Dementia

While behavioral symptoms are common throughout the stages of dementia, it is important to communicate with your loved one’s doctors, especially when these symptoms appear suddenly, or escalate. Symptoms can also reflect a different and underlying medical issue, like a urinary tract infection, sinus infection or something else. It is important to give kindness and care to your loved one suffering from behavioral symptoms of dementia. If your loved one requires more care than you can offer, consider an assisted living cottage.

To learn more about the behavioral symptoms of dementia and how you can help manage them, Contact Us.