Living with dementia will affect a person’s feelings, thoughts, and responses. It is important to recognize and respond to the person’s emotional needs. It can also cause not only loss of memory but also changes in behavior and mood. There are a number of mental changes you can expect to see if you’re caring for someone with dementia. Although they may be distressing to witness, it’s important that you be prepared for them and know how to respond. In this video, we’ll go over some of the mental changes that are common in people with dementia, and provide tips on the best ways to deal with them.
There are a number of mental changes you can expect to see if you’re caring for someone with dementia. Although they may be distressing to witness, it’s important that you be prepared for them and know how to respond.
In this video, we’ll go over some of the mental changes that are common in people with dementia, and provide tips on the best ways to deal with them.
One of the most common mental changes experienced by people with dementia is difficulty remembering things. The person you’re caring for may repeat the same statements over and over, misplace things, and start to collect or hoard objects for no particular reason. They might also lose their sense of time, and talk about past events as though they are happening in the present.
Be patient with them, and don’t quiz them by saying “try to remember.” Provide clues and gentle reminders, and treat all of their repetitions as though they’re telling you for the first time.
The person you’re caring for may also start to have trouble using and understanding language. They might have difficulty finding the right terms for things and start using words incorrectly. It will take them longer to process information, and their responses to questions may not always make sense. It’s also possible that they will start reverting back to their first language.
Again, patience is key. Try to speak slowly and clearly, and give them more time to respond. Ask open-ended questions, and use visual gestures and cues to help jog their memory. If you happen to speak their first language – if it isn’t English or French, using it for key words and phrases can help.
Another common mental change for people with dementia is difficulty recognizing objects, places, and people, including close relatives or caregivers. The person you’re caring for might also start eating unusual things, or mixing food into unappetizing combinations.
Don’t take it personally if they don’t recognize you at first. Identify yourself clearly, and try to identify objects in the moment. You can prevent unfortunate food mixtures by keeping items that won’t mix well apart from when you serve their meals.
People with dementia can also have trouble with purposeful movement. They may refuse help, and insist that they can do it themselves. They might try to perform physical actions they aren’t capable of, and may not recognize when something they’re trying to do is dangerous.
Do your best to see these situations from their perspective. Try to normalize your assistance by telling them “I do this for everybody,” or by framing the help as though it’s temporary; say you’ll help them “just this once” and let them handle it next time.
You should also be prepared for the person you’re caring for to start having trouble perceiving the world accurately. This could include delusions, hallucinations, and suspiciousness or paranoia.
In these instances, it’s best to avoid arguing or trying to convince them that what they’re experiencing isn’t real. Hear them out, and focus on their feelings rather than the facts of their story. It can also be useful to change up their environment to help prevent future misunderstandings.
You’ll probably notice that the person you’re caring for has less motivation than usual, and appears to no longer care about things that once interested them. They may sit in the same place for long periods of time and could have trouble initiating conversation.
Although you shouldn’t force them to participate in activities, a bit of gentle persuading is okay, especially if it’s something that they used to enjoy. Doing the first step with them rather than for them is often a good way to help get them started.
People with dementia have a reduced ability to perform tasks that involve planning, organizing, and using good judgment, so the person you’re caring for may begin having trouble with the basics of daily living, like dressing and grooming themselves.
The best way to handle this is to simplify the tasks that they’re trying to accomplish and provide clear, step by step instructions. It can help to prepare the environment and set up the task in advance, but try to allow them to still perform the task on their own if possible.
Watching the person you’re caring for go through these mental changes will be tough, but by using the strategies you’ve just seen, you can make things less stressful for both of you.
For more information on caring for a person with dementia, visit our website.