As a caregiver you may be finding it difficult to cope with the changes dementia can bring. As dementia progresses certain behaviours can cause a considerable amount of stress to the whole family.
Changes in personality may mean a loved one behaves in a way that you find embarrassing or stressful.
As a person loses their inhibitions and judgement they may say or do things that you consider to be inappropriate or out of character. They may have an outburst of behaviour and say hurtful things.
It is not uncommon for people with dementia to accuse those they love of stealing or conducting schemes behind their back. They can also become accusatory and suspicious for no reason.
Some people living with dementia may say sexually inappropriate things to their partners or nursing staff. Whilst not uncomfortable for the person with dementia, this behaviour can embarrass family members.
Just because a person has dementia doesn’t mean they cease to be a sexual being. We all need intimacy and touch, sometimes what we interpret as an unwanted sexual advance may simply be a need for affection and reassurance. Nevertheless at times like these carers can feel uncomfortable and not know how to respond.
Things you can do to help you cope with changes in behaviour
- It’s important when caring for someone living with dementia and challenging behaviour to be aware of the way you react. Your body language can mean a lot to someone living with dementia. As can your tone of voice. Try not to rouse or berate a person especially when the behaviour does not affect the person. They may however be hurt by your reaction.
- Remind yourself that a family member is not trying to annoy or hurt you on purpose, their behaviour is a result of changes in the brain that they cannot control. Try and distract the person by calmly taking them away from the situation or space.
- Coping with these changes means dealing with your own emotions, trying to understand why a person is behaving the way they do (they have an unmet need) and coming up with ways to prevent and manage behaviours that concern you.
- Look for a pattern of behaviour. Is this a behaviour you could prevent? Are they trying to communicate an unmet need? For instance, a person may take their clothes off when they are simply too hot or need to go to the toilet.
- When you are under stress it can be difficult to keep your emotions in check. Personality changes can make caring for a loved one with dementia heartbreaking especially when they are not the person you feel you know and love.
Talking to a health professional about behavioural changes is important as we often focus on physical health changes when we visit a GP. Always mention any changes in mood, behaviour and personality. These changes could indicate an underlying medical condition not just a progression of dementia.
Ask your GP to refer you to local services or a Dementia Advisory service in your area. Know that there are things you can do and services that can help you manage behaviours associated with dementia.