Tips for Dealing with Behavioral Issues in Dementia Sufferers

dementia behaviorsIf you’re caring for a loved one with dementia, you’ll probably be challenged by their actions and behaviors as the disease progresses. It’s important to remember that dementia causes changes in the brain, and this is the main reason why your loved one is acting the way they do. Caregivers need to learn how to react and prepare for some of the common situations they’ll face when caring for someone with dementia. This will help you stay calm and employ certain strategies to accommodate any problem dementia behaviors.

Dealing with Dementia Behaviors

The key to dealing with dementia behaviors is to identify the causes of the behavior and learn how to make changes in a calm, caring atmosphere. Most problem behaviors occur due to the dementia sufferer being unable to properly communicate their needs to you. They get stressed and frustrated, which causes them to react in an inappropriate manner.

Knowing the what’s, why’s, when’s, where’s and how’s behind the behaviors can help a caregiver get through some of those tougher moments.

  • What: Identify the cause of the problem. Is your loved one having difficulty expressing him or herself? Is your loved one at risk of harming him or herself, you, or others? Is their environment or a task at hand causing confusion and frustration? Try to figure out what is causing their reaction and/or discomfort.
  • Why: Try to understand why the dementia sufferer is acting a certain way, rather than focusing on what they are actually doing. Be empathetic and put yourself in your loved one’s place and try to figure out why they are feeling the way they do.
  • When: Are there certain times of the day when your loved one is more difficult? For example, those with dementia have a tendency to experience more difficulty in the evening hours. This is known as sundowner’s syndrome. Knowing when to expect problem dementia behaviors will help you plan and prevent them.
  • Where: Is their environment causing them stress? Are they in a new place or are there too many people around, loud noises, too much stimulation, etc.? Figure out if changes in your loved one’s environment is causing the problem behavior.
  • How: Once you’ve identified the causes behind your loved one’s behaviors, learn how to effectively deal with them.

There are many ways to manage and reduce the stress in a dementia sufferer’s life. It’s important to find what works best for your loved one, as every dementia patient has different needs. For some, using calming music can help soothe them through stressful periods, like mealtimes or evening hours. For others, light physical activity like walking or seated exercises can be a great stress reliever. Helping your loved one remember the past by asking questions or looking at old photos can also help calm them.

The most important thing is to remember that dementia behaviors are simply a product of the disease itself. As a caregiver, try to practice patience and forgiveness; you are in control of your reaction to their behavior.

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