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Dementia and Constant Crying: What to Know

In her blog, Dementia Diaries: A Journey With Dementia, Cassandra details her mom’s life with dementia. In one post, Mom’s Crying Spells, she wrote about how she was helping her mom blow dry her hair. Suddenly, she began crying out of nowhere:

“”What’s wrong mom? What’s the matter?” I asked her.

Of course she didn’t respond to my questioning, but she continued crying about something. I turned off the blow dryer, looked into her eyes and patted her back, reassuring her that “it’s okay”. I could’ve cried myself, although I’m not much of a crier. My heart hurts every time she does this. Much of the time I don’t understand what she’s saying and I have no idea what she is thinking that is making her feel emotional. Is she scared? Is she confused at what is happening to her? Is she sad? I feel so helpless. I wish I could give her the comfort that she always gave to me.”

Dementia and constant crying can be a disheartening mix but there are a variety of reasons for it.

What is the relation between crying spells and dementia?

It’s imperative to note that dementia crying spells are not always related to feelings of sadness. However, you should always maintain a level of sensitivity. This person’s world no longer makes sense, but you can help them manage that feeling. Causes of crying spells can include:

  • Physical Causes
    • Are they hungry or thirsty?
    • Do they need to use the bathroom?
    • Are they in pain?
  • Environmental Causes
    • Is their living area cluttered?
    • Is it too loud?
    • Is there too much stimulation going on in the room?
    • Is it too hot or too cold?
  • Psychological Causes
    • Are they bored?
    • Are they anxious?
    • Are they lonely?
    • Is it a sign of depression or other mental illness?

If there are other mental health factors affecting the dementia patient, it should be treated separately. You wouldn’t deny a diabetic of their insulin, so you also shouldn’t deny a depressed person of the care they need. Take the patient to a physician or a more specialized person such as a psychiatrist or psychologist for a proper diagnosis.

How can I help if a crying spell occurs?

If the person is crying, try to observe the environment and determine if certain factors such as the room temperature, noise level, or other stimuli could be the cause. Other ways to help include:

  • Music Therapy: Provide them with their favorite music.
  • Pet Therapy: The presence of a fuzzy animal or even a life-sized picture or stuffed animal could provide comfort.
  • Interaction With Children: Young children have a way of engaging a person with dementia in ways that adults can’t.
  • Doll Therapy: Providing a doll or stuffed animal could provide emotional protection or love.
  • Take Them Outdoors: A breath of fresh air can work wonders.
  • Simple, Repetitive Activities: Cleaning, flipping through a catalog, mixing ingredients, and other tedious activities can help keep their mind occupied.
  • Touch: A reassuring touch, hand holding, or a light massage could convey much-needed love and attention.

Overall, it’s important to be present and available. A person with dementia feels empty, and you can make a difference just by reassuring them with love.