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Understanding and Managing Dementia Behaviors

Medically reviewed by

Written by Shloka Sucharita

An individual with dementia face different challenges associated with the illness, and coping with those challenges becomes difficult for family members. Dementia is a progressing illness; the patients start to show unusual behavioral changes that are tough to adjust around and take care of. Over time, there might be drastic changes in behaviors, and managing dementia behaviors is a challenging task. Finding out the reason that might be triggering certain behaviors can help manage those behaviors. 

Introduction to Dementia and Its Impact

Dementia is an umbrella term describing various symptoms that affect cognitive functions and daily life. Dementia hampers communication between brain cells, which shows a decline in cognitive abilities severe enough to impact the behaviors and the ability to think. It is hard to cope with common behaviors like frustration, confusion, or sadness that occur with different forms of dementia. It is important to understand the behavioral changes and the reasons behind them, which will help understand how to deal with dementia patients and caregivers. 

Common Behaviors Associated with Dementia

A person affected with dementia can show many uncertain behavioral changes, such as forgetting to maintain personal hygiene, repetition when talking, talking about things that don't make sense, misplacing personal items, showing agitation, believing their dead loved ones are still alive, forgetting people, leaving the house unannounced, and getting lost. These are some common behaviors of dementia, while some patients might show other unknown behaviors. 

Agitation and Aggression

These behaviors are common in patients with dementia; they suddenly get aggressive for no known reason or may be from a frustrating situation. It is important to understand that the behavior is not on purpose. The aggression can be caused by any physical discomfort, like a UTI, lack of sleep, hunger, or thirst; they may not identify the reason. It can also be caused by environmental factors like crowded places, loud noises, and physical clutter. Poor communication can also cause agitation. Try to calm them down by doing relaxing activities. 

Confusion and Memory Loss

The cognitive changes that occur in dementia can lead to memory loss, which can create confusion in the mind. The condition progresses with the illness, and the individual may end up with complete memory loss. Repetition of dialogues, forgetting people or places, and becoming disoriented are common signs of confusion in people with dementia. It can be caused by crowded environments, unclear communication, sundown syndrome, paranoia, etc. Caregivers need to use short sentences, try to ask yes yes or no questions, and provide structure. 

Repetitive Behaviors and Speech

Individuals with dementia constantly repeat a sentence that is caused by the progressing issue of memory loss. They might repeat the same question over and over, even after getting a reply. They often forget about their belongings and constantly search for them. These behaviors are mostly caused by fear, anxiety, or environmental factors, and they try to find familiarity, comfort, and security because of these changes. Caregivers should handle these actions calmly, try distraction, and avoid reminding them that they have already asked the same question. 

Wandering and Restlessness

Dementia causes unusual behaviors that can cause harm to the patient, such as wandering out unannounced. They can get into unwanted situations without the knowledge of the caregivers. It can cause restless behaviors, like pacing up and down and showing agitated fidgeting. Caregivers should include daily walks in their routine, consider alarm or tracking devices for their safety, and make sure to feed them nutritional food on time. 

Common causes of sleep problems in dementia patients

With aging, people struggle to get sound sleep, and dementia patients experience more sleep problems than normal seniors. More than half of senior dementia patients are affected by sleep issues, which include difficulty sleeping or staying asleep, getting confused between day and night, and feeling agitated while trying to sleep. Sleep issues can be caused by various factors.

  • Dementia patients experience drastic changes in their sleep structure and circadian rhythms, which cause sleep issues.
  • Some generalized medications for sleeplessness can cause more confusion and unstructured sleep cycles.
  • Consumption of more caffeine, sugar, or alcohol hampers sleep patterns.
  • Blue rays from electronic devices can cause delays in sleep.

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Effective Strategies for Managing Dementia

Individuals with dementia experience various behavioral and cognitive changes, like forgetting things, thinking rationally, or communicating. Gradually, they will need assistance daily in completing tasks and communicating effectively. These changes can cause them to behave aggressively, but it is important to understand that they are not deliberately doing it. Caregivers need to execute different strategies to manage these changes and handle the patient carefully. 

Communication Techniques

Communication can be an issue for patients with dementia; it is difficult for them to convey their feelings effectively. Memory loss can make it even harder for them to understand conversations. Caregivers need to implement different techniques to help them communicate better; also, encouraging them to have conversations will help them communicate their needs. Talking to them using short sentences and yes or no questions can help them understand situations better. Make eye contact when talking, listen attentively, and calm them down if they feel agitated. 

Creating a Safe and Comfortable Environment

Holistic dementia care can only be done in a safe and comfortable environment. Various safety aspects need to be followed, like keeping sharp objects and trip hazards away from them and ensuring the house has proper lighting to avoid falling. A familiar environment, minimal noise, and less distraction will keep them at ease. Physical comforts like proper clothing, an appropriate temperature, and supportive furniture will help them feel comfortable. Taking care of a dementia patient is difficult, but it is important to keep these crucial things in mind. 

Managing Sleep Disturbances

Sleeping problems can be hard to manage, but there are a few things that can help a patient sleep well. Avoid anything that can delay sleep, like caffeine, sugar, and alcohol, before bed. Avoid things like the consumption of sleep medication, which can create irregular sleep patterns, and remove electronics from the room as they affect the eyes and cause sleep disturbances. Maintaining a sleep routine, like changing into comfortable clothing, taking hot showers, listening to relaxing music, and drinking warm milk, will indicate sleep timing. Avoid late-night sleep times. 

Activities and Engagement

Dementia is a progressive disease that causes severe memory loss over time. Engaging dementia patients with different reminiscing activities can improve their mood, make them feel peaceful, reduce frustration, and minimize wandering behaviors. 

  • Listening to familiar or favorite music 
  • Revisiting memories through photos and items.
  • Simple arts and crafts like painting and pottery, using things the patients like, can bring good memories. 

Tips for Caregivers: Dealing with Dementia Patients

Being a caregiver for a dementia patient can be intense and stressful, but it makes the biggest difference in their lives. Currently, there is no cure for this disease; physical and mental health gradually decline, so caregiving is the only thing that helps. Different strategies can help deal with challenges effectively. 

Understanding and Responding to Emotional Needs

Dementia patients find it difficult to express their feelings and needs using appropriate words. It is crucial to understand their emotions and respond to them accordingly, as their emotions get amplified by other challenges. Approach them with empathy, acknowledge their emotions, speak slowly with simple language, and focus on the present, which will help them relax. Engage in calming activities, offer physical touch if required, and mostly maintain a connection by spending meaningful time with them. 

Handling Challenging Behaviors

  • Wandering: Installation of locks that require keys, putting locks high or low, and using colored signage can prevent them from going outside
  • Incontinence: Maintain a routine for using the toilet, keep an incontinence pad in the room, and use an elastic waistband for easy removal of clothes.  
  • Agitation: maintain a peaceful environment, follow a routine, support their independence
  • Repetition: provide reassurance and comfort; try distraction; avoid reminding them about repetition.
  • Paranoia: avoid arguing; help them find the missing item; try giving a gentle hug or touch
  • Sundowning: increase physical activities, avoid food that gives high energy, and keep evenings calm.
  • Eating: Schedule meal and snack times, offer finger foods, and make mealtime fun.

Self-Care for Caregivers

Caregivers can become overwhelmed, as it takes a lot of time and effort to take care of an individual with dementia. The caregivers need to take care of themselves. 

  • Reach out for help if needed, and ask for local services for additional support.
  • Keep a healthy diet, as it provides energy for a longer duration
  • Taking breaks in between will help clear the mind, follow a hobby, or talk to friends
  • Exercise regularly or practice yoga to maintain a healthy life
  • Take help from a mental health professional who will help you cope with anxiety and stress

Seeking Professional Help and Support

If an individual is experiencing increased confusion, consider it a sign to seek professional help. Dementia caregivers always need to be on alert and on the lookout for symptoms such as high fever, chest pain, breathing difficulty, new confusion, diarrhea, and vomiting, and seek urgent medical help from professionals. On the verge of confusion, dementia patients tend to harm themselves or others; constant support is required in such situations. If required, they should acquire various services like telehealth and delivery services for groceries, medication, or essentials. Caregivers should seek help and support from online support groups for themselves.

Embrace the Journey with Compassion and Knowledge with Cadabams

Constant help and support are required for the patient to function daily, and the caregivers need to know about the illness and should be able to handle difficult situations calmly. In these situations, professional help is required. If you are searching for a solution to your problem, Cadabam’s Rehabilitation Center can help you with its team of specialized experts. We have been helping thousands of people live healthier and happier lives for 30+ years. We leverage evidence-based approaches and holistic treatment methods to help individuals effectively manage their dementia. Get in touch with us today. You can call us at +91 96111 94949.

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1. How do you manage dementia behavior?

Dementia behaviors can be difficult to manage, but they require patience, understanding, and a focus on addressing the underlying cause. Identify triggers like pain, hunger, or boredom and adjust routines accordingly. A calm environment and validation of emotion help calm down various triggers. Include physical and social activities in their daily routine; medication can help in some situations. Seek help and support if required to deal with these challenges.

2. What is the basic understanding of dementia?

Dementia is a disease that affects cognitive function severe enough to disrupt daily life. It affects an individual's ability to think, memorize, reason, and behavior. Alzheimer's is one of the common forms; multiple types exist with different causes and symptoms. It generally affects seniors, and it is different from normal aging. This disease is largely incurable, but caregivers can adapt managing techniques to handle the challenging symptoms of the disease. 

3. How to prevent dementia?

Embracing a healthy diet, regular exercise, and mental stimulation through learning new things can reduce the risk of dementia. Managing other health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure will help. Maintain a healthy lifestyle with no or limited consumption of alcohol and smoking. Adaptation of these steps helps overall well-being, but there is no guarantee it will completely prevent dementia; surely, they help build strong cognitive health. 

4. What are the main causes of dementia?

The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer's, and it is caused by protein build-up in the brain that disrupts communication between cells and also affects movement and cognition. Strokes or blood flow issues also cause dementia. Dementia in the family can put an individual at risk. Head injuries, infections, and vitamin deficiency can also contribute.

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