Caregiver’s Guide: Understanding Dementia Behaviors

The onset of dementia is not easy to navigate. Understanding dementia behaviors from the various stages makes the advance of the disease not necessarily easier to process, but at least more manageable.

For the senior directly afflicted, what was once familiar becomes oddly stranger. Family and caregivers must cope in their own way with the emotions of seeing their loved ones change over time.

Knowing how to keep a loved one in good spirits will brighten their quality of life and assist other relatives, friends, and the caregiver with staying in a better frame of mind. It’s important to remember as we dive into some of these behaviors that dementia affects every individual differently.

Communicating with a Person with Dementia

In the later stages, communication can eventually become more difficult as they may lose the ability to speak or hold a typical conversation. Knowing how to effectively communicate with the loved one will make it easier to address their needs and work through dementia behaviors to have a better understanding.

Here are ways you can make this possible:

1. Set a positive mood and tone. Body language and tone of voice are crucial aspects of communication that are often overlooked. The saying, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”, really rings true in this instance. 

Speaking in a softer and calming voice, and even smiling will show pleasantness and affection. If you speak and physically act in a distressed and confrontational way, the senior may sense that and feel more withdrawn.

2. Provide reassurance in your responses. Seniors with dementia will commonly express shyness, frustration, or get upset when they can’t remember something or experience confusion. What you can do in these instances is provide reassurance through verbal and physical expressions such as a hug or holding their hand. 

Another tactic that works is to redirect the focus on another subject. Changing the environment can also help diffuse any uneasy feelings. A way to do this effectively and in a way that they still feel validated, is by first recognizing what they are feeling first. This is done by saying something along the lines of, “I see you’re feeling a little low today. I’m sorry you feel that way. How about we go for a nice walk outside? It looks very sunny today.” 

3. Keep it simple. Keep conversation simple and with words that are easy to understand. Asking questions that are mainly yes or no, or one word answers will also make it easier on the senior to make needed decisions. 

When you speak, make sure you do so clearly and not in a rush. Keep it in a consistent pitch and try not to raise it too low or too high. Making the statement as less complicated will reduce the chance of a misunderstanding. 

Working Through Difficult Behavior

A lot of the behavior that caregivers will see is a result of the senior using coping tactics for the cognitive decline they are experiencing. Seniors with dementia may act out in agitated ways that they never used to. A mother that was always known for a laugh that could light up any room, may end up seldomly smiling.

They may resist help with daily activities such as bathing, eating a meal, or getting dressed. This can be attributed to them feeling a lack of independence or control, being rushed, or simply unfamiliar with what’s going on. Try breaking down each task into easy to comprehend steps before you do anything. Allow time between each action and explain so in a calming voice. Figure out what activities they do best with and leverage their abilities in order to assist.

Dementia and Wandering

The reason a senior with dementia might wander can often be from the longingness to find a familiar place. It is hard to fully know why they may try to wander, but it is important to recognize the possibility of it happening and prevent them from getting lost. 

To reduce any boredom or restlessness, partaking in some exercise will help. A light walk is perfect for light physical activity and can also be relaxing for both the senior and the caregiver. Installing new locks on doors, masking the door with a sign or curtain, child-proof covers on door handles, and even a GPS device can be worn like a necklace, watch, or attach to their belt are all good ways to help keep a senior with dementia safe..

Make Light of the Circumstances

Do the best you can to make time for laughter, humor, and make light of each day you are given with a loved one that has dementia. Keeping things light hearted will make it easier to work through difficult and troubling times. Bringing up a happy memory of their past, looking through old photo albums together, or cranking up some feel-good tunes are some ways to enjoy time together and feel connected.

Dementia is not easy. As a caregiver, you are given a title and responsibility that you should know your loved one appreciates, whether they are able to show it or not. Caregiver support groups unite individuals who are in the same boat, and can provide an outlet for venting and guidance. 

In the event that the role as caregiver becomes too much to continue, the transition to a dementia care community may be something to consider. Many communities like Kensington Place offer exceptional care and essential services like rehabilitation and specialized dementia therapies. 

Give us a call today if you would like to learn more. We hold a promise to love and care for senior loved ones, as we do our very own. 

Further Reading:

Memory loss is life changing for all involved. At Kensington Place, we provide a state-of-the-art memory care program, a higher staff-to-resident ratio than industry standards, and more advanced care services. Our promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own.

For additional resources regarding your loved one’s condition, please read on about our Memory Care, Alzheimer’s Care and Dementia Care.

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