It is not uncommon for an individual living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias to lose their inhibitions and judgment. As the disease progresses, an individual may develop behaviours that you find embarrassing, even hurtful.
Many caregivers become distressed when a family member behaves in a way that is out of character.
Some people with dementia say things that are insensitive or accusatory. They may become suspicious and demanding of attention. Typically they may accuse you of stealing or hiding precious objects.
As the disease progresses, people with dementia can often lack insight into what is “appropriate behaviour”. An individual may expose themselves in public or make inappropriate sexual comments. They may lash out in public or in front of close friends.
Carers and family often find this type of behaviour embarrassing and difficult to deal with. Fearing an outburst of behaviour you may find yourself even avoiding social gatherings with friends.
It’s important to remember that these types of behaviours are not deliberate but due to physical changes in specific areas of the brain.
Sometimes these behaviours occur simply because the person with dementia has forgotten how to do normal everyday tasks such as getting dressed. A sudden change of behaviour could also be related to infection, pain or medications.
As dementia progresses these behaviours typically pass.
Things you can do:
- Try and understand why the person is acting in a certain way and what unmet need may be contributing to the behaviour. Are they too hot or uncomfortable?
- Explain to other people that the behaviour is part of the dementia and not aimed at them personally. (Try not to attribute everything to the disease, maybe their just having a bad day like the rest of us).
- If you care for a person that exposes themselves in public, try using gentle persuasion to distract his or her attention, check whether they need to go to the toilet or are uncomfortable.
- Try engaging them in another activity. Don’t rouse on the person.
- Be reassuring and comforting, use humour where appropriate.
- Orientate to time, place and person.
- Don’t argue with the person or be judgmental.
- Remember to reassure the person with some physical attention and comfort. People with dementia still have physical and sexual needs, just difficulty expressing them.