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 an expected speedbump. 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 Alters Personality and Behaviour
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 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.
Other Reasons Why Dementia Changes Personality and Behaviour
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 likely 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 Dementia Care Caregivers in all facets of Dementia Care including the Gentle Persuasive Approach and Behavioural Support Training. Our esteemed 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.
Personality and Behavioural Changes That May Come with Dementia
Here are some of the most common changes that may come with Dementia:
- Delusions, delusional thinking
- Hitting and other violent actions
- Hoarding and hiding items
- Inability to make decisions
- Insensitivity to others’ needs and emotions
- Lack of inhibitions leading to impulsive or inappropriate behaviour
- Loss of motivation
- 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
- 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 changes that Caregivers and loved ones notice in people living with Dementia.
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, so a Type-A personality may become even more domineering and even aggressive in late-stage Dementia.
Coping with a Changing Loved One: 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.
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 changes may not be an inevitable symptom of Dementia. They may be a sign that they are 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.
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 and flexible, 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.
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. But 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.
While acceptance of the disease and its effects on your loved one is hard-earned, you can control your behaviour in frustrating situations. Remind yourself 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.
Know When to Accommodate or Redirect
Handling someone’s behaviour hinges on your ability to recognize the best kind of response. Sometimes, someone’s behaviour may not