Caring for a parent with dementia requires love and patience. It is the framework within which all other care is delivered. Love and patience allow caregivers to calm an agitated parent, reassure an anxious one, or redirect one who is confused. Given the wide swings in mood and behavior that can be caused by any type of dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease, love and patience are good practices for caregivers to adopt. The importance of this was highlighted when the Alzheimer’s Society reported that dementia patients hold “emotional memories”. In other words, dementia patients have the ability to feel happy long after they may have forgotten an actual visit or experience.
It can be very difficult to practice love and patience when Alzheimer’s disease causes behavioral changes, but it can help with these issues.
1. Dementia can create aggressive behavior. If the loved one in your care suffers from dementia you may see them exhibiting signs of aggression, agitation, confusion and/or depression. They may become very suspicious, begin to have sleep issues, exhibit signs of sundowning, or wander. These are all normal symptoms of dementia, but that doesn’t mean they are easy to cope with. They emerge at different stages of the disease and occur randomly from hour to hour and day to day.
2. Dementia can change personalities. In the early stages of dementia, patients may experience behavior and personality changes such as increased irritability, anxiety and depression. Often times these changes are the reason why families decide to seek medical or professional home care assistance.
3. Dementia can cause paranoia. In the middle stages of the disease you may notice more behavioral symptoms like aggression, agitation and paranoia. There may be a fear that family members are stealing or hiding things from them. A loss of inhibitions can cause people to do things completely out of character, like swearing, making sexual advances or acting inappropriately in social settings.
4. Dementia patients may withdraw. Across the spectrum of dementia, common personality changes include apathy, a loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed, paranoia and delusional thinking. A normally outgoing parent may begin to withdraw socially and become insensitive to others. They may develop an inability to make decisions and suddenly show a lack of initiative. It is a dark, discouraging stew of mental and emotional decline.