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Caregiver’s Guide to Understanding the Behaviors of Dementia Patients

dementia patients

It is estimated that at least 12 million people in the US and Canada suffer from some form of dementia. Dementia is a tragic thing, and dealing with it isn’t just difficult, but heartbreaking as well. Despite existing for literally millions of years, dementia is still very much a mystery to us.

That being said, we do know a decent amount about it, enough that caring for dementia patients might be a little bit easier. So, why is a dementia patient acting the way they are, and how can we deal with that? All that and more will be answered below.

What is Dementia?

An interesting fact about dementia is that it’s not technically considered a condition, but a symptom of other conditions. Among these conditions are Alzheimer’s, which is probably the most common cause of dementia, and Parkinson’s. The cause is not known for either of these conditions.

Even though we don’t know what exactly causes it, we do know what dementia and associated conditions actually do. It has a lot to do with brain cells and a chemical called dopamine.

As these conditions set in, brain cells inside them die. Most notable of these cells are those in the substantia migra.


Don’t be intimidated by the big Latin term, because what’s important here is not the region of the brain itself, but what it does. It creates dopamine, a chemical in the brain that is responsible for helping us understand rewards, and causing us to feel joy when we do certain tasks.

Essentially, it’s part of a group of chemicals that help us to understand and regulate emotions. When these cells die, some of the neurons they were connected to can misfire, which has been blamed for the twitches and tics that come with Parkinson’s.

This is why, in addition to memory and some cognitive issues, dementia can also have an effect on the emotions. Dementia patients may become depressed, angry, scared, or just generally uneasy. They also tend to act in very unorthodox ways, which oftentimes don’t line up with the situation around them.

How to Take Care of Dementia Patients

Before we go any further, it should be noted that caring for a loved one with dementia will be difficult. The added stress has an especially noteworthy effect on the elderly, and can cause early death.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t take care of your loved one, but if at all possible, get help. This can be anyone from a professional visiting nurse to a relative. Any help can make the situation a little bit easier.

In fact, some studies have shown that a certain type of therapy can help strengthen the relationship between the patient and their caregiver, and possibly even help the patient hold on to some of their memories for longer.

Regardless of who’s taking care of the dementia patient, there are certain things to always keep in mind. The biggest rule is to not take anything they say or do personally.

They may say or do things that would come off as very cruel had anyone else said or done them. It’s important to note that you didn’t do anything wrong. They’re not completely in control of their emotions, nor can they completely remember what’s going on, meaning that they don’t have a grasp of the entire situation.


It is not at all uncommon for dementia patients to experience hallucinations. These hallucinations can take many different forms, with some being more time-based and others being far more illogical.

An example of a time-based hallucination is if somebody refers to an event that happened twelve years ago as if it’s still happening.

Others may defy pretty much all logic, like if a dementia payment refers to planes landing on the roof, even though they live in a suburb nowhere near the airport.

Although it may be taxing to handle dementia patients at these times, they are usually harmless. Honestly, the best thing to do is to go along with the hallucination.

The patient will talk about and live in their hallucination for a short time, often a few minutes, and then return to their original state.

Worst-Case Scenario

There may come a time when your loved one becomes violent, because they’ve lost memory of you and the environment they’re in. Thus, their natural response is to panic and assume they may be in danger.

If this happens, you may be left with no option but to send them to a professional memory care facility. You may be thinking of the horror stories that have come out of nursing homes, but there are a lot of good places, too. The best way to go about it is by reading reviews and visiting a couple of facilities.

This should give you a good idea of the character of various nursing homes and help you decide which one best suits your loved one.

Stay with Them

No matter how bad things get, you need to make it a point to see your loved one regularly. This is as much for your benefit as it is for theirs.

Maybe things are at a point where they no longer recognize you, but you’ll want to keep seeing them. It may hurt, but you’ll only feel worse if you leave them there.

Keep going and don’t give up hope. Maybe there isn’t a definitive cure for Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s yet, but there are plenty of medicines and therapies that can slow their effects.

Dealing with Dementia

Having a loved one with dementia can be very difficult to handle, but there are ways to make things easier on yourself while also giving them the best life that you can.

The obvious starting point is to understand what they’re going through. If you know a little more about what dementia is and why it causes people to act a certain way, you may find it a lot easier to empathize with them.

A little help, from any source, never hurts, so be open to accepting it. Also, see it through to the end. Even if your loved one doesn’t know the difference, you will, and you don’t want any regrets later.

If you want to know more about dementia and the facilities that treat it, please visit our site. Maybe you want to know what makes us so suited to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Maybe you want to know more about our dining services, and what kinds of food your loved one can expect at our facility.