Dementia is scary. It is not a single disease, but it is a general term that covers a wide range of cognitive disorders caused by abnormal brain changes. Symptoms, progression, and functioning levels differ from person to person.
We’re going to talk about a specific behavior that occurs in many people who suffer from dementia. If your loved one is displaying clingy and needy behavior, this post will help you understand the behavior and will provide tips and suggestions to help you understand what causes clingy behavior and how to deal with neediness.
What Causes Neediness?
Dementia is sneaky. It slowly takes away the ability to think clearly. People with dementia begin to feel lost, confused, and insecure. Attention-seeking behavior displayed by needy elderly people with dementia is their way of asking for help.
So how do we help someone who has dementia? Clingy behavior is easy to understand if we just think about it for a moment. Imagine a world where nothing is familiar anymore.
A person with dementia feels anxious and afraid in their own home, so they look for reassurance that they are not alone. The fear of being alone in an environment they no longer recognize results in extreme anxiety, so they find you, follow you, and may even cling to you for comfort.
Be gentle when this occurs. Your loved one needs reassurance that they are not alone. When someone has dementia, they live in a constant state of fear. They have the fear of strangers, the fear of not knowing how to find their way, the fear of not being able to communicate, and the fear of anything that is not familiar to them.
How to Deal with Clinginess:
Do you have needy family members with dementia such as an elderly mother with attention-seeking behavior? When a person with dementia becomes clingy, they have lost their rational thinking and memory skills until they can no longer understand what’s going on around them.
The simplest tasks have become impossible, and nothing looks or feels familiar.
The following tips can help you cope with the behavior while helping your loved one feel safe and secure.
- Consistency and routine are essential. Develop a routine and try to stick to it as much as possible.
- Try giving the person simple tasks throughout the day to redirect his/her clingy or following behavior. Folding towels, drying dishes, and dusting furniture can keep your loved one busy and feeling useful.
- Provide reassurance. When you leave the room, assure your loved one that you will return and that he or she will be fine until you come back.
- Look for ways to redirect focus. Turn on the television, put on some calming music, offer a snack, or give your loved one a magazine to look at.
Download Our Early Signs of Dementia Guide
Just remember to be patient, soft-spoken, and kind as you help mom or dad work through the fears and uncertainty of dementia. A reassuring voice, a warm smile, a hug, or taking a moment to sit together for a moment can change behavior from annoying and negative to positive for both you and your loved one.