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People who suffer from dementia can display behaviour that others consider illogical and difficult to understand. Adjunct Associate Professor Lim Si Ching, Senior Consultant from the Department of Geriatric Medicine; Li Fuyin, Advance Practice Nurse (Geriatric); and Seng Yuh Jen, Senior Medical Social Worker, all from Changi General Hospital (CGH), a member of the SingHealth group, explains more and offers caregiver tips .

Dementia often leads to behaviours that can leave a caregiver feeling stressed, frustrated and helpless. This often occurs when the person with dementia has trouble expressing himself or herself.

Common dementia behaviours

Dementia-related behavious to look out for include:

  • Repetitive behaviours such as asking the same question repeatedly
  • Agitation
  • Tendency to wander
  • Shouting and screaming
  • Hiding, hoarding and losing things
  • Disrupted sleep at nights
  • Sleeplessness and “sun downing”, or increased confusion at dusk continuing into the evening
  • Suspicion
  • Lack of inhibition. For instance, undressing in public or inappropriate sexual behaviour

What to do when the dementia patient is uncooperative

Try to understand why the person finds it unpleasant and make adaptations if necessary. Re-examine whether the activity really needs to be done or find a simpler way of doing it. If needed, stop the activity and try again later, or talk to a healthcare professional experienced in caring for people with dementia.

How can the caregiver cope?

Remind yourself that the person with dementia (PWD) is not being difficult. All behaviours are a means of communication, and establishing what he or she is trying to communicate can help resolve the problem quickly. Reassure the PWD often and distract with calming activities, such as playing a favourite song.

As the caregiver, It is important to get support and take regular breaks when you feel overwhelmed.

If the behaviour becomes more challenging, talk to the PWD’s doctor about alternative ways to manage.

Caregiver tips to communicate better with dementia patients

Dementia can affect one's language skills, such that the person with dementia (PWD) has difficulty understanding what was told or asked, cannot find the right words to express himself or recall the names of loved ones.

Such scenarios can be upsetting and frustrating for both the caregiver and the PWD. To better cope with such situations, caregivers should:

  1. Minimise background noise and distractions to help the person with dementia focus
  2. Use short, simple words and sentences. Speak slowly and clearly
  3. Put on hearing aid and glasses to facilitate communication
  4. Avoid questions that require recall from memory
  5. Use a gentle and relaxed tone — a lower pitch is more calming
  6. Ask one question at a time and allow time for them to respond. Repeat information
    or questions if needed
  7. Turn negatives into positives, e.g. say “Let’s go here” rather than “Don’t go there”
  8. Treat the person with dementia (PWD) with dignity and respect. Avoid addressing the PWD the way you address a child
  9. Be patient and supportive. Smile often and assist the PWD with clues and hints when there is a language problem

See the previous page for dos and don'ts for dementia caregivers.

See the next page for tips to make a dementia-friendly home.

Ref: L20

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Check out other articles on dementia:

Dementia in Singapore: Fast Facts

Dementia: What You Need to Know

Dementia and Depression: Is There a Link?

Young Onset Dementia (YOD): Dementia That Affects the Young

Brain Diseases: Early Signs to Look Out For