Dementia is not one specific disease. Instead, it is a group of conditions often characterized by loss of one’s brain’s cognitive functioning, including thinking, reasoning, and memory leading to changes in behavior, so much so that it starts affecting their daily life and those catering to them. Dealing with dementia is stressful, challenging, and heartbreaking not only for the person themself but also people around them.
When one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or any other type of dementia, it means their cognition or way of thinking changes in at least two of the following six ways:
1. Ability to stay focused, attentive, or even multi-task
2. Ability to make decisions, organize and plan
3. Ability to retain things/information
4. Ability to understand and express their emotions
5. Ability to understand what they see or feel and translate into meaningful information, and
6. Ability to find words to use and understand for a given concept
What are some of the personality and behavioral changes in those dealing with dementia?
Dementia comes with its own set of behavioral and personality changes, which might be hard to understand in the first place. These changes are reflections of the part of the brain that’s losing neurons and can be really hard to manage sometimes. Some of the changes have been listed here below:
2. Aggressive and threatening behavior, owing to pain, boredom, and frustration
3. Lack of desire to do something
4. Compulsive behavior, leading to a desire or urge to do something again and again
5. Disruptive sleep
6. Hallucinations or delusions
7. Impulsive behavior
8. Continuous desire to move around, explore and wander
But how can you make your life easy and those dealing with dementia as well?
Decrease suffering and try increasing the quality of life of both yours and theirs by following eight steps.
1. Reassurance is the key
You just can’t control how people dealing with dementia feel or behave, even they can’t. So put them first before reacting to their reactions. Reassuring helps bring the stress, anxiety, and anger a notch down. Collect yourself and approach slowly. Don’t argue or react with logic as you cannot reason the other person with any logic or proof!
Note: Keeping your posture relaxed also induces a sense of assurance.
2. Try avoiding and keeping track of possible triggers
Any difficult behavior is often a result of some external stimulant. Whenever that happens, try noting down their behavior, time, date, and what happened.
Noting these points over a dedicated period will help you assess what could trigger uneasiness and disruption in their behavior!
3. Try creating a structured and predictable daily routine and a schedule for the person dealing with dementia
Routine activities induce a sense of security and familiarity and let them know what to expect even if they didn’t understand something completely!
But keep the duration of activities short because they might get bored and then eventually feel irritated. Keep them busy and engaged with numerous activities planned throughout the day.
Note: Chances are that what works today doesn’t work tomorrow. So don’t feel disappointed!
4. Redirection works too
Now by redirection, we mean to change the direction of things, course of action, and momentum of behavior literally. Try steering them towards something they really love and admire. Try changing the activity like gardening, playing music, etc. Or you can also choose to change the surroundings altogether, like taking them to a different room, space, chair, table, etc.
Note: Don’t try to be physical with them. Instead, try emoting through your physical emotions towards something else for diversion.
5. Don’t beat yourself up too much
You don’t need to go too harsh on yourself when dealing with the situation. If things become too overwhelming to handle, you can always resort to external support like seeking help from friends and family, resorting to medical help when needed, joining dementia-based caregiver groups to know how others handle situations at their end!
6. Ensure enough nutrition and liquid intake
People dealing with dementia literally start forgetting that they need to drink or eat. Consequences of poor nutrition can range from being meager and light to serious and even life-threatening.
Try making mealtimes special and a fun time, with foods prepared to keep them in mind. Also, try feeding them smaller and frequent meals instead of heavy and few meals!
7. Try accepting the fact that your loved one is dealing with dementia
Yes, making time for reflection helps with accepting what’s happening with your loved one. By accepting the reality and taking time to reflect on these changes will help you cope with the emotional and physical trauma, besides a deepening sense of satisfaction with the current situation!
If you’ll be at peace of mind, then only will you be able to take care of the concerned person. They aren’t conscious of their acts, but you can!
8. Don’t react to their problematic behaviors
Reacting back to their behavior makes them feel uncomfortable and insecure, and they tend to retain such emotional impacts, even if they forget other things. Also, don’t ask “WHY” as they too might not be able to reciprocate about their behavior and feel helpless, instead of being helped. This makes them feel dismissive as well and in turn, gives fuel to your disturbance and difficulty in handling your loved one!
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