A New Family Caregiver's Guide To Challenging Dementia Behaviors

Posted on: 20 January 2016


Navigating through the unfamiliar territory of a loved one's dementia care plan can be challenging for caregivers who must find a way to strike a balance between soothing their loved one and keeping them safe. Due to the progression of the disease, it can also seem as though new behaviors appear as soon as the first ones were managed. For this reason, it is important for you to have a full understanding of the types of behaviors you can expect with each stage along with a set of strategies that can ensure your loved one receives the best possible care.

Minimize Forgetfulness

During the early stages of dementia, you may notice your loved one experience mild incidents of memory loss. They may forget appointments or skip taking their medications. Since many dementia patients are still living independently at this stage, memory aids can become increasingly important. Calendars, alarms and medication dispensers can all help you to remind your loved one of important events throughout their day.

Calm Negative Emotions

As your loved one encounters more challenges due to the progression of their dementia, you can also expect them to exhibit strong emotional responses at times. Frustration, anger and refusal to accept help with daily activities can all be hard to accept as a caregiver. Try to remember not to take these responses personally. Instead, focus on the underlying reason for the behavior. For example, a person who is agitated may be uncomfortable due to physical distress. Once this need is addressed, then their behavior will return to normal.

Manage Sundowning and Shadowing

Dementia caregivers frequently report that their loved ones experience periods of agitation and restlessness in the late evening hours. This is called sundowning. According to the Alzheimer's Federation of America, this is more likely to start during the middle stages of the disease, and you can expect it to increase through the later stages. Shadowing may accompany sundowning, and you may find that you loved one follows you throughout their home asking repetitive questions and mimicking your movements. Try to keep your loved one active throughout the day, and create a soothing routine at night to reduce these behaviors.

Prevent Wandering

According to the Alzheimer's Association, over 60 percent of people with dementia will wander, and approximately half of those who are not found within one day experience an injury or death. As with the other dementia-related behaviors, this risk becomes more prominent in the later stages of the disease. As a caregiver, you should be aware of the signals of potential wandering such as your loved one asking to go home. It can also be helpful to disguise exits or add locks in places your loved one cannot access.

Although these strategies can help you to care for your loved one during the earliest stages of the disease, it is important to understand that dementia patients often require specialized care as their dementia progresses. For this reason, memory care is one option to include in your long term plans since this can allow you to provide your loved one with professional supervision around the clock. By understanding how to guide your loved one through each stage, you can reduce your caregiver stress while ensuring your loved one's safety and wellbeing. To learn more, contact a business like Gateway Living.