By far the biggest struggle most families are faced with in caring for a loved one with dementia is understanding the disease process and the behavioral disturbances that often occur. This is the most difficult thing to do, because everything changes in Dementia of any type! It doesn’t matter if it is Alzheimer’s dementia, Fronto-temporal dementia, Lewy-body dementia or Vascular dementia……all bets are off! I took care of a 50 bed locked dementia unit for well over 3 years, often times spending many hours on the unit due to behavioral disturbances, and I can tell you first hand that changes in behavior occur quickly and often times for no apparent reason. Many families often wonder what they are doing wrong when these behaviors develop. The answer is in most cases ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ! The disease process is the cause of the behavioral disturbance! The shrinkage in the brain that occurs with any form of dementia causes a change in the areas of the brain that help us reason and deal with things. When these changes occur, and depending on what area of the brain it occurs in, it often results in delusions and/or hallucinations. It is the delusions and hallucinations that then cause the behavioral disturbance! In Fronto-temporal dementia, the response is often times physical aggression. Dealing with these behavioral disturbances then becomes the issue. My advice, is walk away, especially if met with fists or threats of violence. You have to allow your loved one to get through the delusional thought or hallucination before it is safe to approach them. Walk away for 10 – 15 minutes, then come back and try again. Remember, you must give them time to work through whatever it is they are trying to process in their mind. Stay SAFE!
Author: Pam Hiti