If you’re caring for a spouse in mid- to late-stage dementia, you can prioritize their safety by learning about and managing the most challenging behaviors that can accompany the disease. While memory loss alone can lead to dangerous situations, dementia causes many other serious symptoms that influence behavior.
Wandering – People with dementia can easily become confused or disoriented, which can often lead to wandering away. Whether they think they need to go to work even though they’ve been retired for years or become agitated in a crowd, wandering behaviors can lead a loved one toward a dangerous situation. Fortunately, there are ways to manage this behavior:
- Make sure your spouse’s needs are met, so they don’t wander in search of the bathroom or kitchen and end up getting lost.
- Keep car keys or wallets out of sight.
- Keep doors and windows locked, or disguise exterior doors by hanging a curtain or painting them the same color as the wall.
- Make sure your spouse isn’t alone for long periods of time.
- Create a daily routine so your spouse is engaged and less likely to become restless.
Hallucinations & Delusions – Dementia can cause a person to hallucinate or believe in situations that aren’t real. Usually, these symptoms are more frustrating than threatening. While the best thing you can do in this situation is to help keep your spouse calm and reassured, severely troubling symptoms may require professional help or medication. If your spouse believes that they are in danger or is hearing voices, seek help from their doctor before their delusions put them at risk of harming themselves or others.
Anger & Suspicion – Since dementia makes it hard for someone to think rationally, they may become easily upset or suspicious of those around them. If handled poorly, these emotions could lead to dangerous actions and behavior. If your spouse is angry, try to identify the source of their anger and do what you can to fix it. Stay calm and try to shift their attention to something else. Avoid using restraint or force unless the situation is serious.
Confusion & Cognitive Impairment – The most debilitating symptoms of dementia can become an issue of safety. Your spouse may forget to turn off the stove. They may forget where they’re going while driving or disregard traffic laws. They may also fall victim to scammers who target vulnerable seniors. Be on the lookout for signs that your spouse’s actions and behaviors are putting them at risk of harm, and adjust your care plan accordingly.
Depression – Depression is quite common for people living with dementia. In addition to emotional turmoil, depression can cause poor health habits for your loved one. They may develop poor sleeping or eating habits or stop taking care of their hygiene. In severe cases, depression can lead to thoughts of self-harm or suicide. If your spouse is depressed, talk to their doctor about treatment options. There are both holistic and drug treatments available that can make a significant difference in your spouse’s health.
If you would like to learn more about these and other behavioral symptoms of dementia and how to manage them, you can read more about them on alz.org®.
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