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As a caregiver, you have to be creative and work around the symptoms and changes of Dementia, some of which are expected and some you might not expect.
It’s such a strange, confusing, devastating disease. It’s difficult to diagnosis and there is no real treatment.
Most people equate Dementia with memory loss such as forgetting someone’s name or to turn off the stove. The reality is significantly more cruel. With Dementia the brain function is affected to a point it interferes with every facet of a person’s life.
Yes, memory loss is the most recognized sign of Dementia but there are other surprising signs of Dementia.
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Dementia is an umbrella term that includes a multitude of diseases.
While, I could go into the many different types of Dementia, I found the names to be irrelevant. It doesn’t impact our day-to-day lives to know what “type” of Dementia my MIL has. The truth is, there is no cure and very few treatments. The responsibility to ensure a better quality of life with this disease lies almost entirely with the caregiver.
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The Surprising Signs of Dementia
To the outside world, my MIL looks and even acts almost normal. In fact, there are some days that she seems normal even to me. As a caregiver, you have to be creative and work around the symptoms and changes. Symptoms like memory loss are expected but there are so many others that you might not realize can be attributed to Dementia.
You expect memory loss with Dementia. However, it isn’t as simple as forgetting certain details or to turn off a light.
Short term memory is usually the first to go. This shows itself as forgetting things that happened earlier in the day, keeping track of one’s belongings, any kind of planning, or remembering the steps required to accomplish a task.
As the disease progresses, your memory fails to the point you forget your spouse, your children, even your own name. You cease to recognize your home or surroundings.
What once was secure becomes terrifying. Family and friends become strangers. The lines between reality and dreams are blurred.
To make this a truly surprising sign of Dementia is the inconsistency. Some days my MIL’s memory is remarkably clear where other days she struggles to remember her children’s names.
A person with Dementia knows they are losing a part of themselves. They are aware of the changes although they may not be able to communicate those changes to you.
This can impact their mood and even their personality. While these emotional issues are difficult to handle as a caregiver, it’s important to remember it’s not about you.
Sometimes anger, rudeness, or depressed behavior are the only ways they know to cope with the multitude of confusing changes happening in their mind.
Hallucinations, Paranoia, and Delusion
Another surprising sign of Dementia is a person’s inability to distinguish what is real and what is imagination. They may see and hear people that aren’t there. Inanimate objects become alive for them. They experience a loss of security by their suddenly unfamiliar surroundings causing paranoia and a need to escape.
My grandfather had Dementia and at one point began reliving his experiences from WWII. He would be under attack by invisible forces to a point he became violent toward my grandmother, his caregiver
My MIL gets wrapped up in a book or TV show and believes we are living out those stories. She worries frequently about being alone or abandoned. This worry causes her a certain amount of paranoia when we leave the house. Even though we live in the home built by her parents over 50 years ago, she has moments where her surroundings are unfamiliar and even frightening.
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For a year and a half, I was convinced my MIL had some major bladder issues. Not only was she incontinent but she refused to wear her adult diapers so you can imagine the messes. UTI’s were frequent and difficult to treat.
We saw a urologist regularly. They just kept prescribing more medicines until the UTI got out of hand and my MIL needed a catheter.
Finally, I sought a second opinion. It turns out incontinence is a common but none-the-less surprising sign of Dementia. It’s not necessarily an inability to control the bladder either.
People with Dementia often don’t recognize their need to use the bathroom. They “forget” what the urge to use the bathroom means and what they should do about it.
Verbal Outbursts and Inappropriate Behavior
A surprising sign of dementia is a lack of appropriate behavior, particularly in public. People with Dementia will often say or do whatever comes to mind. They may steal or lie. Self-control is no longer part of their character.
- Their conversation might become inappropriate and rude.
- Outbursts or even tantrums become common.
- Thoughts are spoken without concern for the listener.
My MIL is no longer a tactful person. For a long time, I was convinced her favorite past-time was shocking people with her words.
- She frequently swears.
- She argues incessantly.
- Lies are commonplace.
- Her favorite conversation topics are morbid, insensitive, or inappropriate.
- She has no verbal filter, blurting out the first thing that comes to her mind regardless of the situation.
While this can be embarrassing, particularly when we’re in public, this is just another surprising sign of Dementia.
Insomnia symptoms are another surprising sign of Dementia.
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Waking frequently
- Night terrors
- Refusing to even attempt to sleep
- Sleeping in the day instead of at night
These are all troublsome symptoms for both the one with Dementia and their caregiver. It causes the caregiver to constantly be on the clock. It also causes other issues that make caregiving even more difficult such as:
- Increased wandering
- Greater confusion
- Increased risk of falls
- Combative behaviors
Weekly it seems I am trying to reset my MIL’s clock. Unless encouraged to stay up in the day, she takes a series of naps both night and day. When awake, she wanders the house causing greater risk to herself and greater annoyance to the rest of the family, especially during the night.
Uncooperative and Resistant
Yet another surprising sign of Dementia is greater resistance and a lack of cooperation.
Even the tasks or requests that directly benefit them are met with argument or flat-out noncompliance.
- Appropriate clothes,
- Safety directions,
become a battle for the caregiver. Instead of feeling gratitude toward you for keeping them safe, healthy, and providing for their needs, they lash out in anger and bitterness.
I never thought I would have to fight someone so hard to get them to simply take care of themselves. Every day I battle some combination of getting my MIL to take a shower, drink water, or wear underwear. These things seem so simple to you and me but to someone with Dementia, they seem scary or even irrational.
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The brutal fact of this disease is that, while advancements are being made, there is no cure or any real treatment for the disease. The best we, as caregivers, can do is learn to live around and work with these surprising signs of Dementia.
Give your loved one grace during these changes. They are confused and frightened. They are aware that parts of their mind are fading away. When we learn to adapt and are able to show compassion even amidst these surprising signs of Dementia is when we find peace as a caregiver.
Did you like this post? Were there any surprising parents with your parent’s Dementia?
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