Behavioral changes in Dementia patients must be expected and if possible prepared for. Dementia is a life-changing event both for the person with dementia and the love ones. Some of us will manage to come out of the event with a greater appreciation for good health. Others will be scared to death about their plight in years to come. Common Behaviors seen in people with Dementia from day to day may include things like forgetfulness, wandering, anger and aggression, isolation or withdrawal, just to mention a few.
Forgetfulness in people with Dementia.
Forgetfulness in people with Dementia is probably one of the first indications that something is about to happen. It may begin with the person forgetting commonly used words or phrases. The person may find him or herself searching for words or phrase and without quite grasping what is going on at the time the love one chimes in and completes the sentence or provide the word or the phrase. A question for loved ones, how many times have you heard someone say, “Mom is missing her necklace” or “Dad has misplaced his watch” and you think very little of it at the time? You may chalk this up to the aging process.
Yes, the forgetfulness is not only about words and phrases it also includes items. In my previous post, I talked about a person placing their keys in the refrigerator instead of just resting them on the kitchen counter. These kinds of things will happen over and over. This forgetfulness can get progressively worst. In addition to forgetting words, phrases, misplacing small articles, a person with Dementia may start forgetting bigger things like where to find the bathroom in the house or the road from the store to the house, a road that he or she has walked several times.
Wandering in people with Dementia.
Wandering, sometimes referred to as pacing, can be closely associated with forgetfulness. A person with Dementia may be just looking for familiar territory such as his or her bathroom, or the bedroom or even for a way out. The wanderer may forget where he or she is or how he or she got there.
Imagine a person with Dementia wandering around in his or her home having difficulty finding things or places that were once so very familiar to them. Scary right? Now take a deep breath and imagine a person with Dementia wandering around outdoors on a busy downtown street or in the mall. You may exhale! Now but take another deep breath and imagine that person with Dementia driving a vehicle… This happens more often than you may want to believe. At least two to three times a week, in my neck of the woods, we have something call a Silver Alert. A silver alert goes out when a senior is missing. Eight out ten times it just doesn’t stop there. The message goes on to tell you the make and model of the car that this person is driving. Now please understand, I am not saying that every silver alert is a senior with Dementia.
Wandering in a person with Dementia can be extremely challenging for loved ones. How often have you heard those panicky words, “he was here a minute ago” or “she was here a minute ago”? The longer it takes to find that person with Dementia the more the danger increases. A situation like this can spark panic both on the side of the loved one and on the side of the person with Dementia.
Anger and Aggression.
Anger and aggression in a person with Dementia is not uncommon. There are a number of things that can cause these behaviors. The first one that comes to mind would be, pain. Pain in a person with Dementia can be extremely disruptive and has the potential to go on indefinitely. Chronic pain in the elderly is another thing that is not uncommon. For a person suffering from Dementia, communicating the need for something to stop or reduce pain may not be an easy task. Prolonged discomfort from pain can be extremely agitating and can lead to anger and aggression. Anger or aggression or both may be displayed verbally or physically.
Not remembering small pieces or big chunks of everyday happenings can undoubtedly lead to suspicious and guarded behavior. Having to be redirected by a loved one may sometimes cause friction between the loved one and the person with Dementia. A person with Dementia can become mistrustful. He or she may no longer view a loved one favorably. This too can lead to anger and aggression.
Frustration is another thing that can lead to anger and aggression. The frustration may be about not remembering how to do simple things or not recognizing people, not being able to perform a simple task like tying shoelaces, not being allowed to make breakfast for his or her family anymore, not being allowed out of the house alone anymore.
Isolating or Withdrawing Behavior in Persons with Dementia.
Some persons with Dementia may be aware of their cognitive impairments and increasingly retreat to their rooms in an attempt to avoid embarrassing encounters. In a lot of cases, they believe that they no longer fit in. They are reluctant to engage in conversation fearing that they are ridiculed or laughed at when searching for words. Some may become suspicious and think that people are watching them all the time. As the cognitive impairment progresses, the person with dementia may find it more and more difficult to express him or herself.
Withdrawal in the person with Dementia can also be caused by boredom. He or she may lose interest in the things that used to bring pleasure. Other things that can cause or contribute to isolating behavior are the effects of medication, a feeling of isolation, a feeling of abandonment and much more.
Keep in mind that all the behaviors listed above will not be seen in every person with Dementia. Neither will every person suffering from Dementia experience the same degree of impairment. In the early stages of Dementia, some people may have few problems communicating. In the latter stages, some persons with Dementia may not even be able to communicate at all. From what we know now dealing with persons with Dementia is not a foregone conclusion. It is probably safer to say no two cases are exactly alike.