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Dementia Care Dos and Don’ts: Coping with Dementia Behavior Problems

In the backs of our minds, we all know we’ll be saying goodbye to each of our loved ones at some point, especially those who are older than us. What we don’t prepare for is watching that person leave us in a different way: changing who they are because of dementia.

If you have a loved one with dementia, you want to make life easier on them. The tricky part is knowing how to do that.

Try these tips for coping with dementia and the behavioral changes it causes.

DON’T Criticize or Shame the Person for Their Behavior

The most important rule is not to criticize your loved one for their behavior. The person isn’t a misbehaving child, and they won’t be able to change their behavior by simply choosing to do better.

As difficult as it is to see someone you love acting in a way that isn’t like them, remember it’s not them, it’s dementia. No amount of scolding is going to make the illness go away or stop it from affecting them.

In some cases, correcting the person is appropriate, like if they’ve forgotten something. Be gentle and kind in the process though.

DO Ask Yourself Why the Person Is Behaving This Way

One common problem with dementia is people become aggressive or angry. In most cases, this is fear and frustration coming out in a different form.

In many cases, people with dementia get aggressive because of physical or emotional discomfort. Put yourself in their shoes and try to figure out what that discomfort might be.

In these situations, it won’t help you to try to correct the person’s behavior. Instead, find a way to fix whatever’s making them uncomfortable.

DON’T Try to Offer Long Explanations and Use Reason

When someone has dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other similar conditions, it isn’t only their memory that suffers. These illnesses cause your loved one to lose some of their cognitive skills too, including their reasoning and judgment.

Because of this, it isn’t a good idea to try to reason with your loved one or indulge in long explanations. If the person lives in a memory care facility and asks why they aren’t at home, don’t go into a lengthy discussion about their illness. Tell them this is where they live now.

Trying to have a long discussion with your loved one won’t get you anywhere. In most cases, it’ll only agitate them and make the situation worse.

DO Have Proof at Hand

One of the most common dementia symptoms families notice is the person asks about basic information over and over. They may ask to see their son or daughter who moved away years ago. They may wonder when they’re going “home.”

In these cases, as we mentioned above, answer their questions in as brief of a way as possible.

It can also help to have something tangible to show them. For example, take a picture of them in their new senior home to show them that they live there. Show them a picture of their son or daughter in the place they now live.

This can help to prevent arguments and let your loved one feel more confident in what they’re told.

DON’T Go Tit for Tat When Your Loved One Is Aggressive

Aggressive behavior is common in people with dementia. If you felt like you were in an unfamiliar environment with no control over your surroundings, you’d have a short fuse as well.

The most important thing to remember in these situations is not to engage and argue back.

Remember that your loved one isn’t trying to be defiant. They’re showing the symptom of a disease, no different than a person with cancer being tired and achy. Arguing back with your loved one will only escalate the issue.

DO Help the Person Find Ways to Stay on Top of Things

As your loved one’s dementia progresses, you’ll notice that they get frustrated with little tasks they used to be able to do easily. This could include finding the items they need or keeping up with their bills.

If you see this happening, try to find a way to help. You could create a file system or organize and label the person’s storage so it’s easy to find what they need.

Be sure to approach that conversation carefully though. If your loved one gets irritated, back off and let them know you’re here to help them if they ever want it.

DON’T Assume You Always Have the Answer

The tips on this list can be a helpful starting point, especially if you have little experience with people with dementia. Above all though, it comes down to knowing your loved one.

Dementia is a learning process and every person is just as unique after it strikes them as they were before. Certain words or reactions could soothe one person and anger another.

The ultimate goal is to help your loved one feel safe. That may require different reactions from you at various times.

During every interaction with them, be observant. Watch how they react to certain phrases or situations.

If your loved one reacts well, log that in your brain as the correct response the next time this occurs. If they don’t, try something new until you find out what helps.

Remember that this is a moving target because your loved one’s illness is always changing.

Dealing With Dementia and Its Symptoms in Your Loved Ones

There’s no debating it: dementia is a vicious illness that can be devastating for the person with the disease, as well as everyone around them. By knowing the dos and don’ts of coping with dementia though, you can make the world a little brighter for the person you love.

If you’re looking for a relaxing, care-focused home environment for your loved one with dementia, contact our senior care homes to find out how we can help.