Coping with Dementia
Helping a loved one cope with dementia is a challenging experience. During this season of sadness, anger and confusion, you may notice a variety of unexpected behaviors, such as depression, hallucinations and even aggression.
Continue reading to learn more about helping your loved one cope with some of the feelings and behaviors that may accompany Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Anger and Aggression
Aggressive behaviors, whether they are verbal or physical, may occur without warning. Unnerving though it may be, it’s important to remember that the person who is acting aggressively is not doing so to be hurtful; they’re simply trying to navigate a frustrating and scary situation. Aggression can be caused by a variety of factors, such as pain or discomfort, overstimulation, tiredness and fear. As dementia progresses and your loved one loses cognitive function, they also lose the ability to identify and verbalize the root of their frustration or discomfort. As a result, they may express themselves through aggressive behaviors.
While it may not be possible to completely eliminate anger and aggression, there are a variety of ways you can help to minimize your loved one’s frustration. Begin by trying to identify the source of stress. Did something happen immediately before the behavior that may have triggered the response? Is he or she in pain? If there is no obvious cause for the reaction, survey their surroundings to ensure that they are not overstimulated. If possible, shift the focus to another activity, such as music, exercise or a massage. Most importantly, remember to not get upset; keep a positive and reassuring attitude and speak with a soft, soothing tone.
Depression is one of the most common issues faced by people with dementia, especially during the early stages. However, identifying depression in someone with dementia can be difficult, as the symptoms differ from those present in someone without dementia. Generally speaking, the symptoms may be less severe and may come and go. The most common symptoms of depression include sleep problems, social withdrawal, irritability and a loss of appetite.
If you suspect that your loved one is dealing with depression, it’s important to let their doctor know. Depression can be successfully treated through a combination of medication and therapy. In addition to ensuring that your loved one gets the professional help they need, you can participate in their care by helping them develop a daily schedule that incorporates activities that they enjoy, encouraging regular exercise and providing a listening ear and an encouraging outlook. While it may take time, ensuring that your loved one receives the appropriate treatment for their depression can improve their quality of life considerably.
When someone with dementia hallucinates, they may see, smell, taste or hear something that isn’t there. Some hallucinations can be very upsetting, while others may occur without the sufferer even realizing that they are experiencing something that isn’t happening. Hallucinations are a byproduct of the changes that are happening in the brain and are generally more common in those who are in the later stages of dementia.
When determining how to handle hallucinations, assess the situation. Are the hallucinations causing distress for the person experiencing them, or are they likely to cause a dangerous reaction? If not, then it’s best to not intervene. However, if they are upsetting, respond with a calm and supportive manner. If possible, try to turn the focus to something like music or a favorite activity.
The behaviors that accompany dementia can be difficult to handle, but fortunately, there is help. Sagepoint Memory Care utilizes a state-of-the-art approach to promote the best quality of life possible. To find out more about our community or to speak with a Sagepoint Advisor, contact us today.