Understanding Dementia

People can live well with dementia if the people and family who support them are understanding dementia as a disease. Caring for someone living with dementia can be emotionally and physically challenging and it is easy to become frustrated and resentful. Understanding dementia and its associated symptoms allows one to be better prepared to provide the best environment, support and care. Understanding dementia also increases the loved ones quality of life and reduces the chances for caregiver burnout.

Symptoms of Dementia include:

  1. Aggressive behavior – usually as a result of pain, confusion, fear or embarrassment. Be as objective as possible in the moment and your reactions will be much more positive.
  2. Forgetfulness – part of the brain associated with memory has been damaged. If your loved one forgets your name, it’s not because they no longer have an emotional connection or benefit from spending time with you.
  3. “Sundowning” – confusion and agitation in the late afternoon or early evening. Plan your visits and your loved ones activities around this.
  4. Reminiscing – these loved ones find it easier to retrieve older memories than new ones. Instead of trying to create new memories which can bring on new insecurities, find ways to presently engage their older memories in meaningful ways.
  5. Hallucinations – understand that these are very real to them. Do not try to convince them otherwise as it will lead to anger or fear as well as distrust and isolation. Adapt to the situation, consider changing the topic, introducing a distraction or going along with the situation if it’s harmless.
  6. Struggle to communicate – this comes with the breakdown of the disease. They still want to feel included in conversations and their opinions valued. Be kind and inclusive, discuss topics of interest to them while in their presence so they can feel included.
  7. Fear of loud and busy environments – these types of places, such as restaurants, shopping centers, etc, can be overwhelming and even frightening. Consider running the errand for your loved one or taking them during a less busy time. Matinee movies and early lunches are perfect happy mediums.

For more medical information on Dementia symptoms, consult our blog The 7 A’s of Dementia.