Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias contribute to five million people age 65 and older in 2010 living with these devastating conditions and probably 500,000 people under age 65. With baby boomers rapidly reaching age 65, that number will increase rapidly.
Behaviors of Dementia Patients
Behaviors of a dementia patient are tied to changes in the brain. The first area to change is the part of the brain that processes experiences and stores short-term memories. What makes this bad is that with five minutes of short-term memory, you can’t start a conversation and you can’t make small talk. We as caregivers must realize that is never going to happen.
Another area of the brain that is affected is the part that controls spatial orientation, so the dementia patient gets lost. Then the emotional control center gets damaged, and lastly the part that regulates the appetite gets damaged and finally shuts down. So with erosions and breakdowns of social skills, short-term memory, one’s sense of spatial orientation, emotional control, and appetite, the takeaway is to know that this will happen and understanding this makes it easier to accept these behaviors and know that the person isn’t deliberately doing these things to aggravate you.
Reasons for Behaviors
Many caregivers complain of kicking, hitting, or biting from the dementia patient. Although there could be multiple reasons for these behaviors, the number one issue is pain, unrecognized and untreated pain. Victory uses the FLACC scale (for patients that can’t tell you they are in pain) to determine if a patient is in pain and can relay this to the physician for treatment.
For many dementia patients, wandering becomes an issue. It is good to keep their muscles strong, but we want to avoid the “gone missing” scenario. Something as simple as a black rug in front of the door can solve this problem, due to their depth perception; they think it is a deep hole and they won’t go over it.
Dementia symptoms vary depending on the cause, but common signs and symptoms include:
Memory loss that disrupts daily life
Inability to reason
Inability to learn or remember new information
Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
Challenges with planning and organizing
Decreased or poor judgment
New problems with words in speaking or writing
Difficulty with coordination and motor functions
See a doctor if you or a loved one experience memory problems or other dementia symptoms. Some medical conditions can cause symptoms of dementia and are treatable, so it is important that a doctor determine the underlying cause.
If you are providing care for a loved one with dementia, there are steps you can take to provide a safer and more comfortable environment:
Step 1: Reduce upsetting symptoms; Be gentle.
Step 2: Provide a safe place for wandering
Take Proper Steps When Caring for Those with Alzheimer’s and DementiaTake Proper Steps When Caring for Those with Alzheimer’s and DementiaStep 3: Take medications appropriately