Don’t let mood swings or what might seem like unusual or inappropriate behaviour leave you feel exasperated – here’s some useful tips on coping with challenging behaviour. 

Dementia can affect a person’s moods, thinking and behaviour, making them more prone to sudden changes in temperament. They may be angry and, in some cases, unreasonable, seemingly for no reason. Here’s how to cope with mood swings and keep the atmosphere as peaceful as possible…

Don’t contradict
Don’t correct the person or contradict them, even if they say something that makes no sense or say something that’s factually incorrect. A person with dementia can take longer than normal to process information and formulate a response, so if you respond with what they perceive to be a critical comment, you may annoy them.

Step away if you can
Walk away from situations that have the potential to get inflamed. If you sense the person is getting frustrated or agitated, give them some space if it’s same to leave them alone for a few minutes. If not, take a few deep breaths and avoid getting into a confrontational situation.

Understand the person may think differently
Accept that behaviour which may seem strange for you may be perfectly normal to the person with dementia. For instance, if they decide they want to sit down on the floor rather than on a sofa, provided they’re not going to hurt themselves, don’t tell them they’ve got to get up. They may think there’s nothing wrong with sitting on the floor – their reality may be different from yours. Provided they’re not causing themselves any harm then let them do what they want.

Let the person speak
Don’t complete sentences or fill in words when a person with dementia is trying to tell you something. Let them take their time and find the right words. If they don’t find the right words, let it go. It doesn’t matter.

Manage your own moods
Try to be in a good place mentally when visiting a person with dementia.  If you’re feeling down or frustrated, then avoid going to see the person if it’s safe for them to be on their own or ask someone else to visit them instead. They will pick up on your mood if you’re feeling agitated. They may not understand why you’re unhappy, but they will sense your mood.

Accept that things have changed
Don’t expect empathy when you’re feeling down or having a tough time, even if your loved one would have been sympathetic in the past. it’s not always possible for a person with dementia to empathize when you’re feeling down or having a hard time yourself. As my mum’s vascular dementia progressed, I noticed that she became more self-absorbed and less concerned with how I was feeling or whether I was ill or had a bad day. Although I admit I used to find her lack of empathy hurtful, I grew to understand that it wasn’t deliberate, and it wasn’t her fault. Lack of empathy is a symptom of dementia. Once you understand that, it’s easier to manage.

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