“Every person’s dementia is unique, but there are many common behaviors associated with the condition. You need to be aware of these actions and have a plan for how to deal with them.”
When your parent has dementia, you have limited options. You can try to find supports that will allow him to continue living at home, or you can find an assisted living center or nursing home appropriate for dementia patients. Your parent’s safety is the paramount concern, but consider his feelings and give him a voice . One of the most challenging things an adult child can experience is caring for parents with dementia.
Eight common behaviors of dementia, and tips for how to handle them
Every person’s dementia is unique, but many common behaviors are associated with the condition. You must know of these actions and have a plan for how to deal with them.
- Paranoia: It hurts when your aging parent accuses you of stealing things from him. It is upsetting when he thinks that the FBI has bugged his house. Paranoia is a frequent visitor to people suffering from dementia. Try not to take it personally. Be reassuring and comforting. Do not argue.
- Adequate nutrition and hydration: Dementia can cause a person to forget that she must eat or drink. This behavior can cause weight loss, malnutrition and dehydration. It can help to have meals at consistent times every day. Finger foods and sippy cups can make it easier for your parent to self-feed and drink. Eating with your parent can encourage her to eat.
- Wandering: When a person with dementia wanders, it can quickly become a tragedy. Regular physical activity can reduce your parent’s compulsion to go walking alone. Install a home security or monitoring system, and put new locks at other locations on doors. Keep tracking devices in his watch, belt, jacket or shoes. Obtain and prepare a “scent kit” so tracking dogs can locate him within minutes.
- Agitation: Keeping your parent’s life structured and predictable , will minimize her anxiety. Treat her with respect. Let her have as much independence as safety will allow.
- Sleeplessness/Sundowning: Dementia can wreak havoc on a person’s “body clock,” making him more active at night than during the day. If he gets regular physical exercise and fresh air and avoids naps during the day, it can be easier for him to unwind at night. Keep sugar and caffeine out of his evening meals. Establish a regular, calming evening and bedtime routine.
- Incontinence: As if dementia did not rob people of enough dignity, it also can cause your parent to lose bladder or bowel control. You may need to post signs with images that help her find the bathroom. Have her use the bathroom at regular intervals. Have commodes available if she has trouble getting to the toilet in time. Provide clothing with elastic waistbands or Velcro fasteners. Have her wear incontinence pads or disposable underwear.
- Perseveration (repetitive speech or actions): If your parent repeats words or actions often, he may be perseverating. Telling him to stop is pointless, and can agitate him. This may increase his perseveration. Divert his attention with an activity he enjoys. You cannot stop him from perseverating entirely, so be prepared to accept a certain amount.
- Bathing: As her dementia progresses, your parent may forget how to bathe. Provide her the supports she needs, while respecting her privacy. Do not leave her unattended in the bath or shower. Safeguard her modesty by keeping her covered with a towel in the shower or tub.
Every state has different laws, so talk with a local elder law attorney to get advice on how to protect and care for your aging parents.
Family Caregiver Alliance. “Caregiver’s Guide to Understanding Dementia Behaviors.” (accessed August 8, 2017) https://www.caregiver.org/caregivers-guide-understanding-dementia-behaviors
A Place for Mom. “Dementia Care Dos & Don’ts: Dealing with Dementia Behavior Problems.” (accessed August 8, 2017) https://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/2013-02-08-dealing-with-dementia-behavior/
AARP. “Caring for a Parent With Dementia.” (accessed August 8, 2017) https://www.aarp.org/home-family/caregiving/info-09-2012/caring-for-a-parent-with-dementia.html