Picture of seniors outside with arms around one another

Dementia is a cluster of chronic, progressive diseases that damage the brain, so a Dementia diagnosis can eventually come with sweeping changes to a person’s cognitive abilities.

This damage is responsible for all the hallmark symptoms of the disease that lead many people to require home care assistance: staggering memory loss, mobility impairments, and communication issues.

But Dementia can also produce significant changes in a person’s personality and behaviour. You might notice your loved ones not acting like themselves as the disease progresses. They might do or say things they would have never done before living with Dementia.

While it can be extremely upsetting to see a parent or partner behaving out of character, it’s a normal and expected speedbump for people with Dementia. Understanding how and why Dementia affects a person’s personality and behaviour may help you cope with these changes.

Changes in the Brain: Why Dementia Personality Changes Happen

While there are many kinds of Dementia, these diseases affect the brain by damaging neurons and their connections. In other words, brain cells die off, and they don’t grow back.

When it comes to a person’s temperament, neuron damage to the frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes is often responsible for the biggest changes in your loved one’s personality and behaviour. Together, these three lobes are responsible for many cognitive functions, including decision-making, emotional responses, executive functions, language processing, and memory encoding.

Dying and dead brain cells can affect people differently depending on the area of the brain that’s been damaged. The location of this damage can even cause different symptoms. It may cause difficulty understanding conversations and social queues, leading someone to withdraw or express anger when they’re confused. It can also lead to impulsive behaviour, causing someone to undress in a public space or speak unkindly to a loved one.

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Other Reasons for Dementia and Personality Changes

You can’t blame every personality and behavioural change on a person’s declining cognitive abilities, especially in the early stage of the disease.

It’s important to remember that a Dementia diagnosis can be frustrating and scary. You or your loved one might be dealing with feelings of anger, anxiety, and anticipatory grief about the future, all of which can affect moods and habits.

As the disease progresses and treatments change, other factors may impact a person’s temperament.

  • They may feel frustrated and depressed when they can no longer pursue hobbies that they enjoy.
  • Some people living with Dementia may struggle to sleep well, and chronic sleep issues can lead to anxiety, poor concentration, and irritability.
  • New medication can negatively impact their mood or come with other side effects.
  • As their ability to communicate deteriorates, they may act out when they feel pain or need help with Activities of Daily Life (ADLs).

If a Senior struggles to communicate their needs or requires assistance with ADLs, they may require round-the-clock care. While some families think a nursing facility may be the only solution, Integracare is an option for those who want to manage their Dementia in the comfort of their own home.

Here at Integracare home care in Mississauga and Toronto, we’re the only at-home Dementia Care professionals partnered with the Alzheimer’s Society of Toronto to educate our Toronto Dementia Care professionals in all facets of Dementia Care, including the Gentle Persuasive Approach and Behavioural Support Training. Our partnership makes us uniquely qualified to handle your loved one’s evolving moods and medical needs.

In the early stages of the disease, our Personal Support Workers can provide kind companionship for people living with Dementia. In later stages, when someone may need constant supervision, our Live-In Caregivers can ensure your loved one’s safety at all times. We also have experienced nursing staff who support your Doctor, PSW, and Live-In Caregivers by providing specialized medical treatment at every stage of Dementia.

Dementia Personality Changes: The First Signs

Identifying Dementia personality changes and its first signs can help you as a family member begin to accept these changes and learn how to adapt to them, as well as coordinating and implementing a plan for handling these changes with your loved one’s Caregivers.

As soon as your loved one receives a diagnosis, it can be helpful to prepare for personality changes with Dementia. However, nothing can ever really prepare you for a sudden shift in a loved one’s behaviour.

Some of the signs you can look for earlier on include changes like getting upset or agitated more easily, acting depressed and disinterested, a lack of concern for personal appearance or hygiene, or pacing. Other changes are also possible, but these can be less noticeable.

Dementia and personality changes may progress together, with personality changes becoming more significant and noticeable in the middle stages of the disease. However, they can arise in the earlier stages as well, especially as communication becomes more difficult and frustrating, leading to agitation.

Common Dementia Personality Changes

Below are some of the most common Dementia personality changes that you may experience or notice in a loved one:

  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Apathy
  • Confusion
  • Delusions, delusional thinking
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Hitting and other violent actions
  • Hoarding and hiding items
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Irritability
  • Insensitivity to others’ needs and emotions
  • Lack of inhibitions leading to impulsive or inappropriate behaviour
  • Loss of motivation
  • Pacing
  • Paranoia
  • Restlessness
  • Repeating words, movements, or activities
  • Social withdrawal, confusion, and awkwardness
  • Sundowning, which describes agitated or aggressive behaviour in the early evening
  • Trailing or following loved ones and Caregivers
  • Undressing
  • Unwanted sexual behaviour
  • Wandering — please explore our previous blog post on this dangerous issue

This list is by no means exhaustive. It simply shares some of the most common behaviour changes in Dementia that Caregivers and loved ones notice.

Dementia can affect each Senior differently depending on the type and stage of Dementia they have. You or your loved one may never experience some of these emotions or actions, or you could struggle with all of them. They may result in unpredictable mood swings, or they may result in long-term personality changes.

In either case, these issues can make it seem as though you don’t recognize your loved one anymore. Someone who was once chatty and outgoing may become introverted and quiet. Dementia can also make old personality traits stronger.

Vascular Dementia: Personality Changes

Vascular Dementia is a subtype of Dementia related to strokes, blood clots, and other conditions that reduce the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the brain and can result in tissue damage. Many Vascular Dementia personality changes resemble those that come with other types of Dementia, including Alzheimer’s. This includes sleep problems, agitation, and aggression, often related to an inability to communicate their needs and changes in the parts of their brain that control inhibitions and acceptable behaviour. Vascular Dementia is also commonly associated with delusions and hallucinations. These can lead to even more upsetting personality changes, such as accusatory behaviour or believing that someone who has passed is still alive.

Coping with Dementia and Personality Changes: Tips to Manage Your Expectations and Reactions

There’s no way to predict how Dementia will affect you or your loved one’s personality exactly. However, you can adjust the way you handle these changes for your peace of mind.

The following tips will help you cope better with Caregiving while also ensuring safety for Seniors who choose to age at home.

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#1 Talk to Their Doctor and At-Home Health Care Team

Any time your loved one’s mood or behaviour changes suddenly, you’ll want to speak with their nursing staff or Live-In Caregivers if they receive healthcare at home. You should also reach out to their GP to discuss these changes.

Abrupt personality changes with Dementia may not be inevitable. They may be a sign that a loved one is feeling unwell or experiencing a side effect from a new medication, in which case they may need immediate medical attention.

Your GP and at-home healthcare team is a fantastic source of guidance, even if your loved one’s behaviour slowly progresses over time. They can help you deal with ongoing issues, such as hallucinations, aggression, or violent behaviour.

#2 Stick to a Routine

Sometimes, people living with Dementia may act unlike themselves out of fear or anxiety about the future. Having a daily routine may help them feel more at ease with their surroundings, as they can come to expect when and where things will happen.

Keep this in mind if you’re thinking about getting at-home healthcare. Your provider should be compassionate, flexible, and willing to accommodate your loved one’s routine.

As Dementia Care experts, we ensure our dependable Caregivers arrive promptly at the scheduled time to ease anxiety in our Clients. This is just one of the many reasons why Integracare staff provides the best Dementia care Mississauga and Toronto have to offer.

#3 Try to Stay Calm and Collected

It’s easy to lose your temper or get frustrated when the person you love is acting erratically or aggressively. However, arguing with them, reminding them that they forgot something, or even yelling at them won’t help matters. In fact, it can often make things worse.

It can be tough to accept personality changes with Dementia, but you can control your behaviour in frustrating situations. Remind yourself that the disease is causing them to act this way. Walk away if it’s safe to leave them briefly, or count to 10 in your head to calm yourself down when you must stick close.

Most importantly, give yourself permission to take a break. While you may feel guilty about doing something for yourself when your loved one needs you, self-care is important in Caregiving. It gives you an outlet for all those negative emotions that can come up when caring for a loved one.

Picture of caregiver holding hand of senior in wheelchair

#4 Know When to Accommodate or Redirect

Handling behaviour changes in dementia can depend on your ability to recognize the best kind of response. Sometimes, someone’s behaviour may not be ideal, but it’s not worth wasting your time and energy trying to prevent it.

Take, for example, pacing. If someone living with Dementia paces but is otherwise calm and quiet, you may want to give them the space to pace safely instead of forcing them to sit down.

Redirecting might be more appropriate when your loved one wants to do something risky or unsafe, like leave the house or drive the car. You can try to distract them with a technique called therapeutic fibbing. Therapeutic fibbing is the act of telling white lies when sharing the truth would cause anxiety.

For example, if your loved one insists on driving the car, you may lie by saying the car is in the shop rather than saying they aren’t safe to get behind the wheel.

By adopting your loved one’s perceived reality for a moment — that is, that they still have a licence and can drive safely — you can avoid upsetting them. You also have a better chance of convincing them to do something safer, like going for a walk with you instead.

More Strategies for Managing Dementia and Personality Changes

In addition to learning how to accommodate and redirect, learning how to calm yourself down when things get tough, and sticking to a routine, there are a few other strategies you can use to manage personality and behavioural changes.

Communicate simply and directly: Especially as your loved one begins to struggle with slower thinking and processing, it can help if you keep your communications simple. Ask one thing at a time to help them.

Focus on feelings instead of words: Your loved one may also struggle to communicate themselves and may not be able to find the right words for how they’re feeling. Don’t stress as much about precisely what they say.

Be reassuring: Knowing that they are loved and cared for can help reduce your loved one’s feelings of agitation. Reassure them that they are safe and that you are there for them.

Avoid arguing or reasoning: This form of confrontation may only make the situation worse, leading to further distress and agitation.

Compassionate Dementia Care in Mississauga and Toronto: Finding Professionals You Can Trust with Dementia Personality Changes

Whether you or your loved one has been diagnosed with Dementia, it’s important to think about the future of your care. Physical and emotional needs may evolve over time, which can make it harder for family to provide care.

At this tipping point, some families may mistakenly believe their loved ones must move into a nursing home to receive the care they need.

While the complexity of the disease can make a facility seem like the only option, at-home Dementia Care allows you or your loved one to age at home without sacrificing access to or quality of medical care.

What to Expect with Integracare’s Dementia Care Services

At Integracare, we pride ourselves on providing compassionate and flexible at-home care. That means you can start by finding dependable Caregivers who fill in the gaps when a family member isn’t available to look after you or your loved one. As the disease progresses, you can opt for more comprehensive Dementia Care services that ensure there’s always someone at home with you or your loved one.

Here at Integracare, we provide home health services in Mississauga and Toronto that ensure our Clients receive the best Dementia Care possible at every stage of the disease.

Our healthcare professionals will come to you to provide whatever assistance you need, including daily companionship, help with ADLs, or Live-In Care for round-the-clock supervision. We also have nursing staff, Physiotherapists, Massage Therapists, and advocates to support those who can’t speak up for themselves.

Whichever level of service you require, every member of our Dementia Care team requires ongoing training to improve the quality of life for our Clients. Since 2017, Integracare has teamed up with the Alzheimer Society of Toronto to ensure our PSWs and frontline health professionals receive up-to-date information about treatment options and coping strategies.

Our commitment to training includes advanced education opportunities, resources, and tools so that our Caregivers can handle personality and behavioural changes with intention, poise, and compassion. As a result, we can proudly claim we provide the best possible home care Toronto and Mississauga have to offer.

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Call Us for More Information

For many people, seeing their loved ones act out of character can be one of the most challenging parts of caring for someone living with Dementia. Unfortunately, it’s a reality of the disease, as both the physical damage to the brain and the anxiety around a diagnosis can make someone act differently.

If you’re struggling to come to terms with a loved one acting differently as a result of living with Dementia, then seek out professional help. Talk to us about developing a care plan for Seniors living with Dementia that helps you cope with these changes while promising the best care in the GTA.