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Navigating Personality and Identity Changes in Dementia

Those living with dementia often experience personality and behavior changes as a result of the cellular changes occurring in the brain.

For caregivers, family, and especially those living with dementia, these changes can be among the most challenging to navigate and accept.

Let’s explore these changes in personality as a result of dementia, including the types of changes, the causes, and how to help your loved one.

Common Changes in Behavior and Personality

Depending on the stage and the cause of dementia, changes in personality and behavior can vary.

For example, those with Alzheimer’s disease or those with Lewy Body dementia may experience different symptoms depending on the area of the brain affected.

The following are some of the most common changes in personality and behavior:

  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Social withdrawal
  • Misunderstanding what they hear or see
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Paranoia, hiding things, or believing other people are hiding things
  • Imagining things that are not there
  • Wandering from home
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Disinterest in appearance or grooming

In the early stages of dementia, your loved one may experience anxiety, depression, or increased irritability.

In the middle to later stages, they may experience agitation or aggression.

Those with dementia may also experience fluctuating behavior changes or feelings, where mood swings are more rapid and intense.

Why Do Those with Dementia Experience Changes in Personality?

The changes in your loved one’s behavior and personality are a result of the progressive damage to cells occurring in the brain.

Depending on the type of dementia, changes often are a result of cell damage in multiple areas of the brain that affect different cognitive skills.

This damage, over time, results not only in physical, uncontrollable changes to how a person moves, acts, or responds to something, but also in behaviors from how these changes make them feel.

Dealing with dementia can cause your loved one to feel confused, lost, anxious, and vulnerable.

As a result, caregivers and family must approach loved ones with understanding, love, and compassion.

How to Support Your Loved One Experiencing Personality Changes

While changes in personality and behavior can cause distress both for our loved ones and those who love them, it’s important to always remember the cause — and that it is not our loved one’s fault.

With that in mind, the following are the best ways to support our loved ones and ourselves as we navigate the changes caused by dementia.

Rule out Underlying Causes of Discomfort or Unmet Needs

Certain behaviors may have underlying causes not related to dementia. Increased agitation or aggression, for example, could be due to pain or an infection.

If you notice new behaviors or changes in personality, take your loved one to the doctor for an evaluation. 

Additionally, some behaviors can be treated with medications, or may be a result of medication side effects. A doctor can help determine the root cause.

Health complications aside, behaviors may be soothed with some home or routine adjustments that are causing stress or confusion for your loved one. Establishing a routine is important for those with dementia.

Adjust Your Behavior to Help Them Cope and Communicate

Changing how you interact with your loved one also may help with behaviors.

Experts suggest seeing behaviors as a form of communication. As a result, we can try to determine what the behavior is telling us about their needs.

Keep communication with your loved one simple, and be comforting and reassuring. Don’t argue or try to reason, and try not to show them your anger or frustration.

Practice Self-Care to Help You Cope

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be stressful and challenging. Don’t downplay the effects of this stress on your own wellbeing.

If you’re feeling anxious or agitated, this can affect the way you interact with your loved one, and increase their agitation.

Instead, in moments where you are feeling upset, take a moment to collect yourself. Use humor where possible, and try to redirect tense moments to your loved one’s preferred items, smells, or sounds for comfort.

Make sure you have your own coping methods to relieve stress, whether it be exercise, calling a friend, or reading a good book.

Enjoy the Simple Moments

Take full advantage of the moments where your loved one is feeling happy and present. Laugh with them and take part in activities they are enjoying.

These simple moments provide bonding and security for both you and your loved one, and will help in times of stress.

How a Memory Care Community Supports Those with Dementia

As your loved one’s dementia progresses, it’s important to have an established care plan if caregiving or home care becomes too much.

In the late stages of dementia, symptoms may become severe. Your loved ones may require around-the-clock care, lose awareness of their surroundings, and be more susceptible to illness and infection.

Moving a loved one to a memory care community in the earlier stages of dementia can help to preserve their quality of life for as long as possible, because they have access to the highest levels of medical care and wellness.

Kensington Place Redwood City Provides Specialized Memory Care

At Kensington Place Redwood City, we deeply understand how memory loss affects your loved one and family.

That’s why our memory care program takes into consideration the individual needs and wants of our residents and their families. We look not only at the degree of memory loss, but all the ways we can preserve and enhance their quality of life.

Across two specialized neighborhoods, Connections and Haven, we provide a full spectrum of support for all stages of dementia.

Kensington Place Redwood City also provides:

  • Fine dining for all dietary needs and preferences
  • Onsite rehabilitation, recovery, and fitness services
  • Extensive support programs 
  • Pocket programming
  • Events to educate and inform residents and families on all aspects of care

We welcome couples, pets, beloved items, and cherished routines in order to create the most comforting and supportive space for your loved one.

Reach out to our team today to learn more about our specialized memory care program. 

Our Kensington Place Promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own. We are here to support residents and their families, and to become your partners in care.

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