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Dementia Behaviors: 7 Tips to Help You Cope

7 tips to help you cope with caring for a senior with dementia or alzheimer's

If your loved one has dementia, it can cause a wide range of behavioral changes. In addition to memory issues and confusion, it’s common for a person with dementia to have mood swings, poor judgment, agitation, wandering, manipulation, or paranoia. You may know these behaviors are normal. But it doesn’t always make them less difficult as a caregiver. Next time you’re faced with common dementia behaviors, try these seven tips to help you manage the situation.

Use Supportive Words

While it’s tempting to speak out of frustration, think about what you say. You’re more likely to calm the situation by using calm words. The National Institute on Aging suggests that you reassure your loved one that he or she is safe, and you want to help. In general, it’s best to keep things simple. Long explanations, logical arguments, or asking too many questions may not help.

Consider Triggers

Have you noticed things that make your loved one’s dementia behaviors worse? For example, many people with dementia have trouble staying settled in the evening. Others may become agitated around personal care needs, like bathing. Or you may notice new people, places, or things that cause difficulties. Be aware of potential triggers so that you can avoid them or be proactive in your approach.

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Often, it helps to think of things from your loved one’s point of view. This may allow you to see the “why” behind his or her actions. Perhaps your loved one is agitated because he or she can’t find the words to communicate. Or maybe an underlying health condition is causing discomfort. If you can get to the root of the issue, then you can address it.

Create a Safe Environment

When things seem out of control, a calm, safe environment is key. Consider changes you can make to make tasks easier, reduce distractions, remove clutter, or prevent accidents. The Family Caregiver Alliance says to move dangerous items out of reach, use plastic doorknob covers, or install a monitoring system if you’re worried about safety.

If you’re dealing with confusion, create visual cues for your loved one. Use written reminders to let your loved one know about anticipated events, such as dinner or visits. Place labels or signs on important items or rooms, like the bathroom.

Redirect to Something Positive

Redirection is a great tool to help your loved one focus on something positive. For example, the Alzheimer’s Association suggests finding an outlet for energy, like walking, doing a chore, taking a car ride, creating art, or listening to music. You may also find it helps to keep familiar or soothing items nearby that you can easily take out as needed.

Adjust with Your Loved One

As dementia progresses, you may need to adjust how you support your loved one. His or her behaviors may change or become more noticeable. Or you may find one tactic works better for a specific behavior than another one. Some caregivers find it helpful to keep a log of behaviors. This helps them keep track of triggers, timing, and what specifically helped their loved one cope.

Get Outside Help

Most important, remember that you are not alone. It’s emotionally and physically hard to deal with dementia behaviors. Find ways to build in a break from caregiving. You’ll be better able to cope with difficult behaviors overall if you’re taking care of yourself.

Sometimes, the issue you’re dealing with is a medical concern. If you aren’t sure a behavior is normal, talk to your loved one’s doctor. He or she is a great resource for dealing with troubling symptoms.

As your loved one’s condition progresses, you may need to consider additional resources and support to help care for him or her full time. As a result, you may want to talk with a senior living community that has specialized care for dementia. Communities provide a safe place for your loved one and have expertise in supporting residents with dementia.

Need help with dementia behaviors? Learn more about the memory care neighborhood at Monticello West and how we support you and your loved one.

Call (214) 528-0660 and speak with a support team member who can discuss your loved one’s needs.