What causes changes in behaviour for people with dementia?

What causes changes in behaviour for people with dementia?

Dementia is a progressive disease that slowly damages the brain, and this can cause changes in behaviour. Not everyone with dementia experiences the condition in the same way – some individuals’ behaviour will change only slightly, but others may experience significant changes.

So, what causes these changes in behaviour for people with dementia? Loss of memory is one element – this can cause all kinds of changes and disruptions to regular patterns and routines, and to how the person recognises their surroundings and the people they know and love.

Damage to other areas of the brain, the structure and its function can also change an individual’s emotional response or make them behave in ways that aren’t always easy to understand.

Then there are the many other influencing factors that can affect how any of us behave, such as how we’re feeling, whether we’re around people we know or strangers, the time of day, whether we’re unwell and, more generally, how the day is going.

In someone with dementia, all of the above may combine, contributing to changes in behaviour that become more noticeable.

Distress and dementia

Although the brain is progressively damaged when someone has dementia, they may still experience distress. Stress about their diagnosis and the future, worry about how people will react to them, frustration about forgetting things or finding some tasks more challenging than they used to.

Emotions like stress, anxiety and fear can cloud the mind – especially in people with dementia. Difficulty in thinking clearly can exacerbate the situation and lead to a stronger emotional or behavioural reaction.

In this scenario, the kindest way to respond to changes in behaviour is not to try and reason things out – because people with dementia may not have the faculties to comprehend this approach – but to accept the person’s reality with calmness and support. Take a moment to STOP and PAUSE.

What is the STOP and PAUSE approach?

The STOP and PAUSE acronyms are an approach to supporting someone with dementia, coined by Oldham Council. It’s a really helpful way to care for someone who’s displaying distressed behaviour and something we advocate here at Ambiance Care.

STOP stands for the following:

S – See things from the point of view of person with dementia

T – Think about your own thoughts and feelings

O – Observe and ask what the person is trying to communicate and what is going on

P – Patience and persistence

And PAUSE represents the potential causes of the changes in behaviour:

P – Physical

A – Activities

U – You

S – Self esteem

E – Emotions

Consider whether the person may be in pain, whether their medication may be contributing to the changes in behaviour, whether they’re hungry, thirsty or unwell.

They might be bored or in need of some social contact, the setting might be too stimulating, or they might be dealing with feelings of depression, fear, anxiety or other negative emotions.

A person’s self-esteem can suffer when they have dementia. Ways to help individuals feel better about themselves include making sure they feel part of things and validated. This means including them in conversations and letting them speak, not pointing out their mistakes and letting them be involved in everyday tasks. Everyone likes to feel useful, valued – and most importantly – loved.

Don’t forget about U – that’s you. Changes in behaviour can be more difficult to deal with if you’re feeling overwhelmed and dealing with stress. Responsibility for looking after loved ones with dementia should be shared, and this is where we come in.

Ambiance Care offers hands-on support and advice for people with dementia, their families and friends. If you have any questions or concerns at all, we are here to help – call us anytime on 0161 537 0983. For more tips and information, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook!