The more you understand about dementia the better placed you will be to provide the best possible care. Here are 7 key facts about how dementia affects behaviour…
The person can lose track of time
A person with dementia can lose track of time and their judgement of how long it’s been since you last saw them or how long you were out can be completely wrong. In my mum’s mind, ten minutes was more like ten hours. I could nip out to her local shop to pick up a few groceries and on my return, she would be upset because she would genuinely believe I had gone home without telling her. Or she would be angry and accuse me of being out for hours. no amount of reasoning would change her mind.
They may become rude
Your loved one may become rude, overly direct or even inappropriate. They may say or do things that seem rude or unreasonable to you, without a moment’s thought. My mum would tell people they were fat, smelly or she didn’t like them. She once told a lady she was boring and told a social worker that she smelt. I almost died with embarrassment, but in reality, my mum wasn’t doing it to be rude. She was just saying what came into her mind. Dementia can take away a person’s ability to edit thoughts. Most of us would think twice before telling someone they were fat or smelly, but a person with dementia will just say what comes into mind. They may also say sexually inappropriate things.
Empathy can be lost
A person with dementia can lose their ability to have empathy. If you tell them you are feeling tired or rundown, the sympathy they would have given you in the past may not materialise. They may show sympathy on a good day but as the disease takes hold of them this is less and less likely.
Recognition can be a problem
Although a person with dementia can have perfectly good eyesight, they may see things differently to the rest of us and may struggle to recognise a person or an object. This is because the brain has to process what we see. They may not recognise you on occasions or think you are someone else. Be patient.
Emotions and moods can fluctuate
A person with dementia can become more emotional and be prone to mood swings and sudden outbursts. I remember one Christmas day when I cooked dinner for my mum. We sat down in the kitchen to have a family meal and she stared into space. When I asked her what was wrong, she hung her head and began to cry. She couldn’t articulate why she was upset. Although this was distressing to see, five minutes later she was laughing about something on the TV and the tears were forgotten.
Judgement and decision-making can be affected
Dementia can affect a person’s judgement and their ability to make decisions. They may become less secure in their ability to make choices and may ask for your advice and opinion on fairly basic things. Guide them and help them make the right choices.
Reality can become distorted
In some cases, a person with dementia may suffer from hallucinations. They may see things that aren’t there. Or they may be confused about what is real. My mum once thought that characters in a TV show were in her living room and asked them to leave. The person may also fail to recognise their own reflection.