Information and Support
Receiving a diagnosis of dementia can be very difficult to come to terms with for the person affected and their family and friends.
Dementia is the label for a group of progressive (slowly worsening) neurological conditions which significantly affect cognitive abilities (i.e., memory, thinking, language, planning and perception) as well as activities of daily living.It is very important to highlight that not everyone who has difficulties with their memory will have dementia. Mild Cognitive impairment(MCI), refers to people who are having problems with memory or other thinking processes but are generally able to function normally in everyday life (i.e., they can prepare meals, manage their finances and maintain familial/social relationships).
These problems are not at the level that would be characteristic of dementia. Often these changes will be quite isolated, for example, only affecting memory but not other thinking processes such as attention or language. In many cases these mild cognitive changes can result from other treatable conditions such anxiety, depression, stress or other physical illnesses, and not from any specific neurological problem. However, for some people MCI can represent the very earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia.
After dementia is determined to be present, a person will undergo screening, such as blood tests, cognitive status evaluation, neuropsychological testing, and brain scans, which will look for what is causing the dementia. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which is why most people confuse the terms. There are other forms of dementia such as vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, and front temporal dementia. Each form of dementia causes dementia in its own way and there are even times when the forms overlap and two of them are contributing to a person’s dementia.
Each form of dementia follows its own typical schedule and has its own stages. For example, Lewy bodies dementia typically doesn’t start with memory troubles, it is primarily attention span and visual hallucinations that are present in the early stages. Another example is that front temporal dementia often begins at a younger age than Alzheimer’s disease. However, as the dementia progresses, more symptoms become present and so the differences in symptoms between forms of dementia become less.
Common types of Dementia behavior and tips for coping.
- Asking the same question over and over again.
- Repetitive actions .
- Repeatedly asking to go home .
- Multiple phone calls .
- Restlessness .
- Pacing up and Fidgeting .
- Shouting and screaming.
- calling for someone from their past.
- Lack of inhibition
- Undressing in public
- Behaving rudely
- Restless at night
- Hiding things and then forget where they are
- Becoming suspicious
- Experiencing periods of increased confusion at dusk
- Try to remember that the person you are caring for is not being deliberately difficult, their sense of reality may be very different to yours but very real to them. Dementia can affect a person’s ability to use logic and reason so things that may seem obvious to you might appear to be very different for the person with dementia.
- Ask yourself whether the behavior is really a problem. If the behavior is linked to a particular activity such as washing or dressing, ask yourself if this task really needs to be done right now or if you could leave it for a while until the person has calmed down.
- Try to put yourself in the person’s situation. Imagine how they might be feeling and what they might be trying to express.
- Offer as much reassurance as you can.
- Remember that all behavior is a means of communication, If you can establish what the person is trying to communicate, you will resolve the problem much more quickly.
- Distract the person with calming activities such as a hand massage, stroking a pet, a drive in the country or by playing their favorite music.
- Try to make sure that you have support for yourself and breaks when you need them.
- Some people find unusual behaviors, particularly a repetitive behavior, very irritating. If you feel you can’t contain your irritation, make an excuse to leave the room for a while.
- If you find the person’s behavior really difficult to deal with, ask for advice from professionals or other careers before you become too stressed. Medication may sometimes be used for these behaviors, but this should be monitored and reviewed very carefully. Ask about the possible side-effects of any drugs so that if they appear you do not automatically assume that the dementia has become worse.
Remember that it is possible to be the cause of the behavior through a lack of understanding of what the person is trying to communicate. Try stepping away from the situation, look at the person’s body language and try to understand what they might be feeling at that time. Give the person space to calm down and offer reassurance.