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Understanding the Behaviors of a Parent With Dementia

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Caregivers in Harrison NY: Understanding the Behaviors of a Parent with Dementia

Caring for a loved one with dementia is both rewarding and challenging. It is a progressive degenerative brain disorder that is commonly associated with Alzheimer’s and other degenerative and chronic conditions. Dementia causes loss of memory, diminishes the ability to communicate and think clearly as well as produces mood swings and behavioral changes. It is this last symptom that is often the most difficult one for family caregivers.

Tips for a Family Caregiver

It is difficult watching a loved one slowly lose their short term memory, but it can be devastating seeing their personality slowly morph into someone not quite recognizable. It’s important to remember that it is not your parent’s personality, but the effects of damage to the brain including the shrinking of the cortex and hippocampus as well as the death of brain cells.

Learning how to communicate with your loved one despite the illness they are going through will help improve the quality of your relationship as well as decrease any tension and stress that may be occurring.

  • While the disease affects everyone slightly different, common communication problems include difficulty maintaining the thread of a conversation and the inability to retrieve words when speaking.
  • As with most communication, a large percentage of it is nonverbal while a higher percentage of communication comes from the tone of voice and body language. With this in mind, it’s important to be aware of these two factors with communicating with your loved one. Use these subtle cues to convey your love and affection and not your frustration.
  • Keeping their environment distraction and stress free helps with the communication process. This includes diminishing background noises such as the TV and making sure that everyone who enters their home knows that it is a “stress free” zone. Keeping your parent from increasing agitation helps them feel more at ease when attempting to communicate. This includes staying calm in the midst of chaos.
  • Try not to interrupt. Give them a cue to use when they would like help finding the right word, such as the nod of their head or a finger to the tip of their nose.
  • Ask simple yes or no questions.
  • Avoid confrontation and don’t try to convince your loved one that they are wrong. They may be seeing shadows that appear to be real life villains or hear noises that go bump in the night. You telling them it isn’t show won’t make it any less real to them. Help them by letting them know that you are there to watch over and protect them and that they are safe and secure.
  • Don’t take behavioral changes personally. A person with dementia often becomes suspicious of those closest to them. This is a symptom of their disease. Use distraction to redirect them to a different subject or activity.
  • Use music and art to communicate.
  • Reminisce. A person with dementia can often remember what happened to them 40 years ago better than their recall of what transpired yesterday. Reliving the past helps soothe their anxiety.

You will face many challenges as a caregiver of a loved one with dementia. Making communication less stressful will go a long way in making the time you spend with your loved one both enjoyable and productive.


If you or an aging loved one are considering non-medical in-home care in Scarsdale and Yonkers, NY, call Griswold Home Care and speak to one of our caring staff members today. Call (914) 768-9065