It is extremely difficult to watch a loved one live day-to-day with dementia. As a family member or friend, you may feel helpless – many families seek skilled nursing care when they are unable to provide the round-the-clock attention their loved one needs. When you visit your loved one, you may be wondering why his or her behavior has become erratic. Unfortunately, it is a debilitating side effect of dementia diseases like Alzheimer’s.

It’s important for families to understand why these behavioral changes happen, so they can respond in an appropriate manner.

Common Types of Behaviors

woman caring for her mother with dementiaWhen a loved one with dementia is going through behavioral changes, it can be alarming for the family and stressful for a primary caregiver. The mood swings can be unpredictable and often alter someone’s personality completely! The following seven behaviors are common for patients with dementia:

  • Aggression or Agitation: This behavior can be physical or verbal. Yelling and physical abuse are commonly the result of discomfort or frustration with the inability to communicate.
  • Anxiety: Being in an unfamiliar environment can be unsettling for dementia patients. They may become confused in a nursing home or leaving their home.
  • Confusion: This behavioral change is a direct result of dementia; as the brain cells continue to deteriorate, it becomes harder to communicate and reason with these patients.
  • Depression: Although the symptoms of depression can be masked by a dementia diagnosis, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that almost half of all dementia patients suffer from some degree of sadness.
  • Hallucinations and Suspicion: Another direct cause of the disease, dementia patients often imagine things that aren’t there. In turn, they may become suspicious that people are trying to steal belongings from them.
  • Trouble Sleeping: There has yet to be an explanation for why people with dementia experience sleep disturbances, but it could simply be the result of mental exhaustion.
  • Wandering: According to the Alzheimer’s Association, six in 10 dementia patients will wander. This behavior can be attributed to the disorientation and confusion they may be feeling at the time.

It’s important to remember that behavioral changes in a loved one with dementia are uncontrollable and that the anger he or she may express is not directed at you. The disease prevents the recollection of words, names and memories and makes it more difficult to develop coherent thoughts. Although it can be frustrating for family members to cope with, the Lewy Body Dementia Association has a simple three-step method to follow:

  • Validate: Express understanding when your loved one becomes upset.
  • Join: Engage him or her in a calming conversation or activity.
  • Distract: Effectively shift your loved one’s focus away from the problem.

If your loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, we have a dedicated memory care community with a skilled nursing staff to provide the attention needed. Contact us today to learn more about Dementia/Alzheimer’s Care at West Hartford Health & Rehabilitation.