Memory loss may be the first symptom people associate with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, but it’s quite common for other symptoms and behaviors to emerge that require special care and attention.
While some dementia behaviors are harmless, others can pose a risk to the individual or others. Effective behavior management helps reduce stress and create a safer living environment.
Memory care team members at Springpoint’s senior living communities are specially trained to recognize dementia behaviors and use behavior management techniques that address the cause of certain behaviors while creating a comforting, supportive living environment.
Some of the common behaviors of dementia are only mildly worrisome, while others may be outright dangerous. However, research suggests early intervention is ideal, rather than waiting until a serious risk is present. Leaving certain behavior symptoms untreated can actually accelerate disease progression, so recognizing and developing a treatment plan for dementia behaviors is an important step in protecting your loved one’s health and safety.
Many problematic dementia behaviors can generally be categorized as verbal or physical and nonaggressive or aggressive; these behaviors fall on a continuum of severity or risk.
For example, repetitive statements, questions, or requests for help are verbal behaviors that are not aggressive and not likely to cause harm. However, your loved one could become increasingly agitated or stressed if their verbal expressions aren’t addressed, which can escalate into more aggressive behavior.
It’s important to remember that not all aggressive behavior is physical. Cursing, screaming, and other distressed sounds are considered aggressive behaviors. Another potential example of verbal aggressive behavior is sexual advances.
On the other hand, not all physical behaviors are aggressive—but even nonaggressive behaviors can pose risks. Removing clothing, stealing, and hoarding are all troublesome, but not terribly risky, nonaggressive physical behaviors. However, nonaggressive acts like wandering and eating nonfood items could put your loved one in grave danger.
Aggressive physical behaviors like hitting, throwing things, or biting are often the most alarming because they can pose an immediate and severe threat.
Other types of behaviors, including sleep disruptions like insomnia, fall outside this continuum but can be equally disruptive.
Behavioral changes in a person with dementia can be triggered by any number of causes, whether it’s stress, fear, an inability to communicate effectively, or even environmental factors. Identifying the problem or root cause of the behavior can provide vital information to help ease the distress and redirect the behavior.
When another adult exhibits unexpected behaviors, you can probably ask direct questions to reveal the source of the problem. People with dementia may have diminished language skills or vocabulary, which makes the exercise more challenging. It’s also worth noting that while people with dementia experience barriers to traditional communication, many are still very attuned to emotions and body language, so you’ll be more successful if you keep your tone and approach reassuring and compassionate.
To identify the cause of your loved one’s behavior, start with an assessment of the environment and circumstances. Is there anything potentially upsetting now (or that occurred just before the behavior started), such as loud noise, unfamiliar people, more activity, etc.? Does your loved one’s body language give you any clues? Have basic needs (hunger, thirst, pain, toileting, etc.) been met? Is there an unfinished task that may be prompting frustration?
When your loved one displays concerning dementia behaviors, you may find yourself frustrated or even scared. These dementia caregiver tips will help you navigate new behaviors and protect your loved one, other loved ones, and yourself:
At Springpoint, our specially trained staff members are skilled in behavior management for people with dementia so they can provide person-centered care that ensures each resident enjoys the best possible quality of life filled with dignity and hope. Contact us to learn more about our memory care communities in Delaware and New Jersey.