Changes in your loved one’s brain associated with dementia can lead to unpredictable thinking and unusual behavior. They may become anxious around family and friends whom they may not recognize or when there are changes to their routine. Seniors with dementia may also become suspicious and suffer delusions, withdraw from social interaction, become aggressive, or become irritable and angry. They may also be prone to wandering.
How can you best respond to behavior changes and better manage a loved one with dementia whose thinking is also changing? Here are nine tips that will help.
Be a calming influence
If your loved one becomes aggressive or agitated, play calming music, read a book together, go for a walk, look at old pictures, or engage in other enjoyable activities. Talking about times past and sharing stories about the family or activities they once enjoyed can also be calming and help them feel comfortable.
Adults with dementia are struggling and are often aware of it, particularly in the early stages. Reassure them every day and be affectionate. If they have delusions, be reassuring and not defensive.
Have their attention
Before talking with your loved one, turn off loud televisions and radios, which will improve their attention. Position yourself at eye level with them; don’t stand above them. Maintain eye contact and if they’re confused over who you are, tell them your name and relationship (“Hi Mom, it’s Gina, your daughter”).
Keep it simple
Follow simple routines and avoid situations requiring them to make decisions. Decision-making can be frustrating for them and cause anxiety. Avoid open-ended questions (“What would you like to do today?”) and instead use guiding statements (“Let’s go for a walk.”).
It may take time for your loved one with dementia to figure out what they want to say. Avoid completing their sentences for them. Instead, offer suggestions if they’re struggling to find the right words. Hurrying them only causes anxiety; take your time with them and remain calm and patient.
Adapt the environment
Because their cognitive abilities will decline, you’ll need to make changes to their environment. If they wander, you’ll need to lock the doors, possibly with more than one lock. Keep medications securely stored and move cleaning chemicals from the kitchen to a garage or other storage area.
Provide a healthy diet
Since dementia can be worsened by poor nutrition, make sure your loved one has a healthy, nutritious diet, drinks plenty of water and juice, and reduce or eliminate caffeine intake.
Be honest with yourself
Your safety and that of your loved one must always be considered. Know your limits and recognize if you need professional help if their behavior becomes more than you can manage.
Join a support group
There are many other families also caring for a loved one with dementia. They can share tips with you about how they’ve successfully managed behavior changes in their loved ones. Talking about your challenges will also bring you a measure of relief and give you the chance to encourage others.
Our professional caregivers at Colonial Home Care Services are trained and experienced in helping seniors with dementia or other cognitive disorders. They’ll provide compassionate care that will help keep your loved one safe at home.
Contact us today to learn more about our services. We’re here to help.