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6 Common Dementia Behaviors and How You Can Help

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When a senior loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s, there are some challenges that you are sure to face. Unfortunately, there is no cure for the disease but there are some things you can do to help manage it. For those living in communities such as our dementia care in Macomb, being in a structured and safe environment helps but it doesn’t automatically fix everything.

That being said, it is important to take a closer look at what dementia behaviors are and how you can help your senior loved one when they are experiencing them.

1.) Confusion

How It Looks:

This is perhaps one of the most notable behaviors of dementia, as when someone forgets or faces lapses in memory, they tend to get confused. In the very early stages following a dementia diagnosis, your loved one may struggle with finding the right words or remembering everyone’s name, or even simply forgetting why they walked into a room. As the disease progresses, this can look more drastic, including not remembering who friends and family members are at all, where they are, or even what year it is. 

How To Help:

Correcting someone with dementia might make them even more confused, anxious, or even agitated or angry. For example, if they are at their apartment at our dementia care in Macomb, but they think they are back on their family farm where they grew up, don’t correct them. Instead, validate their feelings and continue to talk with them and be there to make them feel connected and comfortable.

2.) Accusations

How It Looks:

For many people with dementia, accusations are bound to happen. This occurs when the senior believes that a loved one or caregiver is lying or withholding information. Normally, it happens within the middle stages of the disease.

How To Help:

While this can feel incredibly hurtful, do your best to remember that it’s not a personal attack. This is the dementia talking, not the individual themselves. While it can be tempting to argue back, try to shift the conversation and talk things out. Redirecting the conversation can go a long way, though be prepared to possibly have to do this several times in a single setting.

3.) Wandering

How It Looks:

Toward the middle stages of dementia, many people tend to wander. Usually, this is a result of them forgetting what age they are or that they are retired, so they go about their routine like they once used to. They might get in the car to drive to their old workplace or try to visit a place they frequented, such as a hardware store or salon. In some cases, they may even be trying to get home even though they are already there.

How To Help:

Once someone begins to wander, it is imperative that you keep a constant tab on their whereabouts. Wandering can be extremely dangerous, especially in inclement weather. Exposure to elements such as extreme hot or cold can put a senior’s life at risk in just a very short amount of time. If you aren’t available to be at home with them 24/7, then it might be time to look into transitioning to a senior living community such as what we offer at dementia care in Macomb.

4.) Sundowning

How It Looks:

Just like the name suggests, sundowning occurs in the late afternoon and early evening. This is a time when many with dementia get especially anxious or agitated. This is likely due to the fact that they have been up and around all day, facing activities that have left them exhausted or feeling drained. They might not have the vocabulary to express themselves.

How To Help:

When this happens, it is best to plan ahead. Don’t save stressful activities such as bathing for the evening. Instead, try to knock these out earlier in the day so you can plan for fun, relaxing activities toward the evening. For example, if your senior loved one enjoys watching a specific sport or TV program, try to get them to relax and settle in instead. It is important to be mindful of your tone and body language as well, as your senior will be very perceptive about that.

5.) Changes In Eating Habits

How It Looks:

Again, this is something that is prevalent in the middle stages of dementia. Your loved one may forget to eat, resulting in weight loss and other health issues. Or they may forgo healthy foods and only want to eat snacks.

How To Help:

If you are noticing your loved one struggling with this, try to help them out by stocking up their fridge or doing the grocery shopping for them regularly. If they are unable to work in the kitchen or safely use the stove or oven, you can always meal prep some nutritious foods that can be heated up in the microwave. Also make sure that your loved one eats it all. It might be daunting for them to take on big meals all at once, so pacing out several small meals throughout the day could be helpful.

Healthy meal prep containers with chickpeas, goose meat , tomatoes, avocado, lemon and spinach. Top view

6.) Changes in Hygiene

How It Looks:

For many with dementia, sometimes basic hygiene can fall to the wayside. They either don’t notice their appearance or forget to do tasks such as bathe, brush their teeth, comb their hair, or switch into clean clothes.

How To Help:

When this occurs, do your best to help by setting reminders for them. This would be a great time for a device such as an Amazon Alexa or Google Home where you can set voice reminders at specific times. You can also lead by example and say, “hey mom, I’m brushing my teeth. Why don’t you, too?”. Little actions like these can go a long way.

Dementia Care Macomb

Dementia can be a tough disease to tackle for both the senior and their caregiver or loved ones. If these behaviors are becoming more and more difficult to handle and are outside your scope as a caregiver, it’s okay to seek help. At The Parkdale, we are proud to have a fantastic staff who are highly trained to help those with memory care issues. Contact us today to take a tour and learn more about the services that we have to offer.

Written by The Parkdale

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