One of the most difficult problems to deal with as a caregiver is the
sometimes strange or disruptive behaviors that people with
dementia develop. They may wander, do certain things
repeatedly, or insist on unusual routines or activities.
Some behaviors that seem strange or disturbing may be natural
expressions of a person's lifelong habits or patterns. Understanding some of
the influences on the behavior may help you deal better with
behavior problems. Try to figure out the reason behind the behavior:
Think about the person's background, previous
life experiences (work and daily routines), and preferences (favorite foods,
activities, or places).
Think about whether the person's unusual
behaviors might be motivated by an urge to continue past activities or habits.
Did the person always go to work at a certain time, and does he or she now seem
to be more agitated or likely to wander at that time?
If you do not
know the person well, talk with someone who knew the person before he or she
developed the disease.
Is the person in pain? Pain can be a trigger for changes in behavior.
Could the person have a urinary tract infection (UTI)? If behavior changes quickly and is quite different from normal, consider getting the person tested for this problem. After being treated for a UTI, many people return to their usual behaviors.
After you know more about what underlies apparently odd or disruptive
behaviors, you will be better able to understand them and respond in a supportive way
to the affected person. This can help make things easier for you both. You may
find ways to change the person's environment and set up daily routines that
make certain behaviors less of a problem. This may also help you avoid having
to use medicine to control behavior.