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How to Reconcile Behavioral Changes With Dementia

Updated: May 15, 2023

For many people, the way they were raised has a profound effect on who they are later in life. Nobody has more of an effect than parents. But what happens as they become older and are diagnosed with dementia? You may need to weather some profound changes.

We know that dementia causes brain degeneration and that it can come with a variety of symptoms. One of them is how they react to the world around them as it increasingly starts to make less sense. Their reactions may be counter to the person you used to know.

Two behaviors we tend to see are frustration and anger. They are in the middle of a sinking ship and have no idea what to do. The hardest part is that there is nothing they can do. Since this is the case there is painful frustration as they attempt to piece together where they are and who all the strangers around them could be.

In a few cases, a person may lash out in ways they never would have before. A man who led a quiet life loving his family may get indignant when his children try to introduce themselves. He may not remember having children but clearly remembers his wife. This could lead to yelling about how he cannot be away from his wife and that she needs him. Sadly, he may not recall that his wife has passed away.

This man’s children want the best for him but may begin hearing more from nursing home staff that he wants his family brought back and demanding he be allowed to go home. It feels heartbreaking but sometimes the family will be told that the further his mind degenerates the more docile he may become. This also means that his memories are few and far between. There will be days he will remember odd details and others where all he wants is to be around the nurse's station.

One thing to ask when you visit is what currently makes him happy. The staff might say that he loves to talk about his childhood pets. Knowing this will give you a preloaded conversation starter that will give him something positive to latch on to.

Aside from that, it is all about asking. Allow yourself the chance to feel out your loved one’s mood. Maybe today they remember you. Or perhaps they can’t quite place you. The fact remains that whether positive or negative these changes are profound and permanent. To try and force out the person you want to talk with is not only inadvisable it can be catastrophic. Letting them live the life they have is the best tactic there is.

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