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Dementia is an Emotional Illness Too
Patient consulting a doctor in the hospital

Dementia is an Emotional Illness Too

Any mentally debilitating illness, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, carries an emotional burden too, both for the patient and the caregiver. It can be upsetting to listen to your loved one cry inconsolably or repeatedly beg for help, with no way to convince them that they are safe and cared for.

Behavior’s To Look For

Your loved one might exhibit the following behaviors that you find troubling:

  • Refusing help
  • Hoarding
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Sundowning syndrome
  • Swearing
  • Wandering off
  • Incontinence
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Accusing others

These symptoms can be aggravated by many triggers, or sometimes simply for no reason at all. Some triggers include: environmental overstimulation, physical discomfort, changes in routine, frustration with inability to communicate, or inability to remain self-sufficient.

Ways to Respond

The increasingly atypical behavior, coupled with memory loss and functional issues, can be difficult to manage. Below is a list of ways to help your loved one handle their emotional episodes:

  • Stay calm
  • Identify the cause or trigger
  • Observe and listen for escalation clues
  • Take care of their physical needs
  • Use calming techniques
  • Distract and redirect with comforting activities

It’s important to separate the disease (and especially the ensuing behavior) from the person. While your loved one may behave in erratic or concerning ways, keep in mind that they are not doing it to purposefully upset you. They are struggling, especially in the early days of the disease, to understand themselves just as much as you are trying to understand them too. The best thing you can do to help them is to continue to love and support them. Enlist the help of their healthcare professionals to develop a care plan that manages symptoms and makes daily living comfortable for everyone involved. And don’t overlook support and respite groups for the caregiver. A caregiver’s mental and emotional health is an important piece of the care plan.

If you would like assistance developing an effective care plan to manage your loved one’s symptoms and behavior, please give us a call. Let us put our experience to work for you.

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