In the Land of Dementia – How You Gradually
Sleepwalk Into a State of Memory Loss
We all know that September is observed as World Alzheimer’s month in order to throw light on this disease that is eventually becoming a serious concern in the world of public health. This day is extremely significant for countries like the US, UK, India and Australia as these countries are all coming to terms with a rapid-growing aging population. As per findings from The Economic Survey, 2019, the demographic dividend is all set to peak by 2041 and the elderly population living with dementia will reach a staggeringly high rate by the time it’s 2041.
In this context, discussions about Alzheimer’s and dementia are inevitable as these are the biggest concerns among the elderly generation. Dementia not just has a detrimental impact on the person who is living with it but also on the entire family. Dementia leads to collapsing state of all cognitive functions which leads to memory impairment and Alzheimer’s is responsible for 60-80% of all the cases of dementia. If you’re someone who is caregiving a person with dementia or if you’re the person who’s living with it, read on the concerns of this post to know more on the disease and its symptoms.
Personality and behavioral changes are a part of this disease
Once a person is diagnosed with dementia, he won’t find any noteworthy changes during the initial phase but as the disease progresses with time, there will be certain changes to his behavior and personality. People who are living with dementia often exhibit certain behaviors which are much different from what they were before and these changes often become tough for the family members to deal with. In fact, it is said that changes in behavior is considered as the most difficult aspects of the disease both for the sufferer and his caregiver. Home caring becomes a vital and essential requirement during this phase of the disease.
Such behavioral changes usually occur when the patient begins to feel distressed and confused about his whole existence and everything around him. He always engages his mind in trying to make sense out of the things that are occurring around him or when they have to communicate about something that they need. If the caregiver can identify the reason behind this kind of behavior and also recognize his needs, this can help him manage the behavior in a proper way. Have you heard about the term ‘challenging behavior’ while caregiving a person with dementia? Walking about and aggressive behavior is two of the most challenging parts of the progression of this disease.
Walking around – Understanding this risky change
When you come across people who suffer from dementia, you’ll find them spending long periods of time walking around the backyard of their home and often trying to leave their home to walk outside. However, you have to understand that walking around is not similar to wandering, as the former represents either a need or a response. The sufferer might be searching for something or for someone; he might be feeling restless or bored or attempting to relieve discomfort or pain. They might also be walking around because they loved the habit of walking in the past and hence they wish to continue doing so. However, this behavior becomes a thing of concern for the caregivers as it involves the safety of the person.
Looking forward to finding the best solution to walking about
If you could help him find a better yet less restrictive solution to walking about, this can be a good option. Another viable solution could be giving company to the person while he walks about so that you could divert their attention to some other interesting topic so that you can return together. If boredom leads to his walking around, you can assign him with some meaningful activities that could eliminate his boredom. In case the person walks alone and gets lost, they should carry their personal identification to make sure they return home safely.
There are some caregivers who leverage assistive technology products like GPS tracking devices to find out a wandering person. The products usually come with a ‘panic button’ which can be pressed when they get lost. The patients also enjoy reassurance and independence when they have a tracking device attached on to them. Nevertheless, the caregiver should weigh the pros and cons of the GPS device before using it as a viable option.
Aggressive behaviors associated with dementia
People living with dementia can at times behave in physically and verbally aggressive behaviors. This can be certainly disappointing for the person who is supporting the patient or taking care of him as well as his friends and family members. This is usually one of the biggest reasons why the caregivers seek help of dementia support services Gold Coast where professionals and experts take care of them.
Why does a person with dementia behave in aggressive ways? How is a caregiver supposed to prevent such aggressive behaviors and handle them when it occurs? Well, aggressive behavior can be of two types:
✔️ Physical: This includes pinching, hitting, pulling hair, scratching or even biting
✔️ Verbal: This includes shouting, screaming, swearing and even threatening people
The kind of aggression that the person shows can be easily linked to the behavior of the person before he was diagnosed with dementia. Nevertheless, records reveal that people who have never ever been aggressive in the near past can even become aggressive once they suffer from this disease. Apart from aggression, other behaviors which are challenging are restlessness, agitation and behaviors that are not appropriate sexually.
Sundowning syndrome – What is it?
There are times when the patients can suddenly become more aggressive, agitated and confused and this is often called ‘sundowning’. The caregiver might see this to continue for a couple of months and this usually takes place during the later stages of dementia. Following are the causes of sundowning:
- Disturbance to the body clock which keeps ticking for 24 hours and this tells our bodies to sleep thereby causing physical alterations to the brain
- Lack of normal routine at a busy time of the day
- Insomnia or disturbed sleep
- Too much of light interruption or too little
- Wearing off of recommended medicines
- Medicines that increase your state of agitation and confusion
- Other environmental conditions like hearing loss or loss of sight
However there are times when you may confuse the behavior of the person to be ‘sundowning’ but he might be actually looking for something that he needs. Hence you should always consider the other reasons behind a specific way in which the person behaves.
Tips for caregivers to deal with sundowning
- Give him 100% support in doing those tasks that they find relaxing and interesting during the day.
- Try to think of all the things that the person did during the day. Did he try to communicate you for some need like wishing to use the toilet or being in pain or feeling hungry?
- Make sure the patient avoids daytime naps even though there are people who love to take naps after lunch as they feel they get tired during that time of the day.
- Daylight can assist the person in changing his mood and hence you should try to take him outside during the day. Inside the room, ensure there are curtains through which light enters the room.
- Take into account the physical surroundings of the place the patient is living in. Do you think the amount of light that enters is appropriate? Don’t keep him in a place that is too noisy or bright as this can make him feel double agitated.
- Read through sleep disturbance tips in order to make the person sleep better at night.
What a caregiver can do about dealing with behavioral changes
Now that you’re well-versed about the different behavioral and personality changes that are linked with dementia, here are few tips for the caregivers on how they can handle such situations.
- Evaluate his condition by a general physician
You also have to keep in mind the fact that sudden changes in personality and behavior can also arise due to pain, infection or side-effect of a medicine. Hence you shouldn’t always assume that these changes are definitely occurring due to dementia.
- Medicines always don’t have the answer
Though there are medicines that can reduce some behavior disorders but it is not that medicines always have the answer. Few fixed behaviors that can mend with medicines and there are also other medicines that have negative impacts and that can make things worse.
- Behavior is a type of communication
In case you come across a person suffering from dementia who acts in an irritated and angry manner, it is a way of informing others about their scariness, pain, confusion or feelings of utter discomfort. So, you should keep in mind that behavior is one of the biggest forms of communication.
- Recognize the cause behind the change
Was there a reason that triggered that kind of feeling or something that happened right before the outburst? Did you have someone visiting your house which led to a disruption of the usual routine? You have to find out these before you make any decision.
- Think whether or not the behavior is hazardous or risky
Hazardous and risky behavior can occur when the person becomes unsafe, tries to wander around and when the person gets furious without any reason. This is when you have to respond in an active manner, trying to distract them from whatever they’re doing.
- Talk to professional caregivers
Choose a support group or a community of experts so that you may get to know about the helpful strategies that are used by other caregivers.
Brain exercises that can work for a dementia patient
Is it possible to keep your brain healthy as you age by challenging your mind? Could brain exercises let you avert memory loss or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia? Scientists require doing more research in finding out the link between mental health and brain exercises. Scroll down to know the impact of regular exercise on your brain.Can you delay dementia with brain exercises?
As the minds of the people stay active, their thought processes and skills to think can keep declining. Different forms of brain training and puzzles can slow down memory loss and other mental health issues. As per a survey that was done on seniors who were above 65 years of age, it was seen that people who took training on memory and reasoning showed improvement of their skills. They had even gotten better with their daily tasks like the ability to do household chores and handle finances.
What about prevention of dementia and Alzheimer’s? Do brain exercises help? There was a study which said that brain exercises could delay the onset of cognitive decline. As people begun to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, mental decline became faster among them whose minds were engaged. Why is this so? It was possibly because staying mentally active bolstered the brain and hence the symptoms started showing up later.
Then where is the silver lining? People who tend to challenge their brains usually spend a smaller part of their lives in the state of decline even though they might get Alzheimer’s or dementia.
More on brain exercises - What are the types you should do?
The kinds of brain exercises that you need to do will vary from one person to another. However, the main idea is to keep your brain challenged and active. Start with something as simple as eating with your hand if you didn’t have the habit of not using it. You may also:
- How about learning something new like a musical instrument or some foreign language? Once you get to learn something new like a new language, this can have a positive impact on your brain.
- Work on numbers, crossword puzzles and other sort of puzzles that can tickle your brain.
- How about playing board games with your grandchildren? Or planning to call for a get-together with your friends over a game of cards and dinner? You can mix up cards with other new games. These kinds of social connections can also help your brain function in a systematic way.
- Play video games or online memory games
Therefore, now that you know how to deal with a person who is suffering from dementia, you should follow the above mentioned tips and strategies to help the person deal with the struggles and challenges of the disease.