Understanding and Managing Dementia Behaviors: A Quick Guide for Florida Seniors


Florida Senior Consulting

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Posted on

Jul 05, 2023


Florida - Sarasota, Bradenton & Charlotte Counties , Florida - Southwest

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Having a senior loved one with dementia can be difficult for the senior and the whole family. Understanding dementia is crucial as you navigate the best and most fulfilling life for your senior loved one.

As we age, our minds and bodies inevitably undergo changes. For some, these changes may include the development of dementia, a broad term encompassing several conditions that impair cognitive function. 

This blog post will explain the different behaviors commonly associated with dementia and provide practical tips on managing them. This is crucial knowledge for seniors and their caregivers, helping to ensure a better quality of life and more effective care. 

Dementia can result in numerous challenging behaviors, including confusion, aggression, sleep problems, and wandering. These behaviors are common, affecting up to 90% of people diagnosed with dementia at some point during their illness. 

Knowing what to expect and how to deal with the behaviors can improve the lives of seniors and their families.

7 Stages of Dementia

Understanding dementia can be challenging due to its complex nature. To offer a clearer picture, we can look at dementia as a journey through seven stages. Recognizing these stages and their respective signs can prepare you for what lies ahead and inform you of the necessary steps to take.

  1. Normal Functioning: During this stage, individuals may not show any noticeable symptoms of dementia, even though changes in the brain could be quietly underway. These changes can start several years before any recognizable signs of dementia manifest.

  1. Mild Forgetfulness: As dementia begins to set in, the person may become increasingly forgetful, often misplacing items around the home. However, memory loss at this stage can be hard to differentiate from typical age-related memory loss.

  1. Noticeable Decline: At this point, the symptoms of dementia become more evident. The individual may frequently misplace essential items like keys or wallets and forget important appointments. This stage can persist for up to seven years.

  1. Moderate Decline: As dementia progresses, the symptoms become clearer and more troubling. The person may struggle to manage finances, pay bills, or remember daily events. If they undergo a Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) with their doctor, they could potentially receive a diagnosis of dementia. This stage typically lasts about two years.

  1. Moderately Severe Decline: As the individual enters this stage, they might require increased assistance with daily tasks. While they can still manage some personal needs independently, such as using the restroom, they may struggle with dressing appropriately or recalling personal information like their phone number or address. Nonetheless, they generally recognize their family and friends and often recall past events with vivid clarity, particularly those from their childhood. This stage can last around 1.5 years on average.

  1. Severe Decline: In these later stages, individuals with dementia require constant supervision and assistance with personal care, such as bathing and dressing. Personality and behavioral changes may emerge, including anger and aggression. However, they often continue to recognize their closest relations, providing a measure of comfort for both the individual and their family. This stage typically persists for approximately 2.5 years.

  1. Very Severe Decline: This final stage of dementia is marked by significant loss of speech and the necessity for round-the-clock care, including professional caregiver assistance if not already in place. Individuals at this stage will likely need help with all aspects of daily living and eating. Many people may pass away before reaching this stage due to other health complications.

Confusion in Dementia Patients

A common sign of dementia is confusion, which often manifests as memory loss. Seniors might frequently repeat questions, need help recognizing familiar people or places, or become disoriented. 

This confusion can be caused by factors such as Sundown Syndrome, unexpected changes in routine, and even hallucinations. 

Caregivers can help manage confusion by providing structure. Keeping familiar objects around can help reorient seniors, as can labeling drawers and cabinets to help them navigate their surroundings.

Dementia and Aggression

Unfortunately, aggression can also occur in those with dementia. This behavior can stem from numerous sources, including confusion, physical or emotional pain, discomfort with specific tasks, medication reactions, vision or hearing loss, Sundown Syndrome, or fear. 

To handle aggression, the 4 Rs (reassure, reorient, redirect, and reminisce) are advised. It's also important to remember not to take aggressive behavior personally; it's the disease talking, not the person.

Sleep Problems and Dementia 

Sleep disturbances are another common issue for those with dementia, affecting as much as a third of seniors with the condition. Causes can include changes in the brain's sleep architecture, certain over-the-counter medications, diet, and the blue light from electronic screens.

To manage these sleep problems, avoid factors that disrupt sleep, such as caffeine, alcohol, and sugar near bedtime and electronics in the bedroom. Establishing a routine that supports sleep can also be beneficial.

Dementia Wandering

More than 60% of people with dementia will wander at some point. This behavior can be dangerous, but it can also be managed. 

Measures include securing all doors, especially those that lead outside, using tracking devices and surveillance systems, and enlisting help from community resources like neighborhood watch groups and local police. 

Other Typical Dementia Behaviors

In addition to the behaviors mentioned above, dementia symptoms can include delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, depression, apathy, and sexual inappropriateness. These symptoms tend to occur more frequently as dementia progresses.

Legal and Financial Considerations for Florida Seniors with Dementia

Managing dementia is not just about addressing behavioral changes; it also involves considering the legal and financial implications.

For Florida seniors with dementia, it's crucial to address these considerations as early as possible. Start by setting up a Power of Attorney and creating a living will while the senior can still participate in decision-making. 

Consulting with Florida-based elder law attorneys can provide valuable assistance in navigating this complex process. Addressing these elements early ensures your loved one's wishes are respected when they can no longer articulate them.

Self-Care and Support for Caregivers in Florida

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be emotionally and physically challenging. It's essential to prioritize self-care and seek support to maintain your well-being. Caregivers often overlook their own needs, which can lead to burnout. 

In Florida, numerous resources provide support for dementia caregivers. These include support groups, counseling services, and respite care facilities. Contact your local Alzheimer's Association chapter or Florida's Area Agencies on Aging for more information.

Florida-Specific Resources for Dementia

Families dealing with dementia should also take advantage of the numerous Florida-specific resources available. Local chapters of the Alzheimer's Association, Florida's Area Agencies on Aging, and adult day care centers can provide a wealth of support. 

Florida also hosts a wide range of memory care communities, offering specialized care and support for seniors with dementia. 

Utilizing these resources can provide much-needed support and alleviate some of the stress associated with dementia care.

Nutrition and Physical Activity for Florida Seniors with Dementia

Proper nutrition and regular physical activity can play a vital role in managing dementia symptoms. Many senior centers and memory care communities in Florida offer programs and activities to encourage a healthy lifestyle.

Research suggests that a diet abundant in fruits, vegetables, and cereals and low in red meat and sugar could potentially decrease the risk of dementia. Adopting a lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, not smoking, and maintaining normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels is viewed as a comprehensive strategy to lower dementia risk.

A Mediterranean-style diet, which includes high consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and cereals, moderate intake of oily fish and dairy, and low intake of meat, sugar, and saturated fat, may reduce the risk of cognitive decline and certain forms of dementia. 

This diet predominantly uses olive oil as a source of fat and allows moderate alcohol consumption with meals. Since the 1960s, studies have highlighted the potential health benefits of this diet, initially noting lower rates of heart attacks among Mediterranean men who adhered to it.

The Mediterranean diet is associated with a reduced incidence of stroke, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and overall mortality. Some evidence suggests stricter adherence to the diet could slow memory and cognitive decline rates. 

Consuming high levels of antioxidants from fruits and vegetables, typical in a Mediterranean diet, may protect against damage to brain cells associated with Alzheimer's disease and increase the levels of brain-protective proteins. 

This diet could also mitigate inflammation and lower cholesterol levels associated with cognitive issues. Despite the limitations of the studies, the Mediterranean diet is generally seen as beneficial for overall health, which could positively impact brain function.

Dementia Summary

Managing dementia behaviors can be a significant challenge for seniors, their families, and caregivers. By understanding these behaviors and implementing the right strategies, we can provide more effective care and maintain the highest possible quality of life for our loved ones. 

However, deciding the best care options and senior living communities for your loved one with dementia can be overwhelming. 

Let us help.

At Florida Senior Consulting, we work daily with seniors in all stages of life, from independent living to assisted living to aging at home and those needing memory care.

We are a Florida-based company with expert knowledge of the Florida senior market, including memory care. While senior options and decisions can seem confusing, this is all we do. We have certified staff, professional nurse advocates, and decades of experience in the field.

If you or a loved one is experiencing dementia-related behaviors, let us help. We're here to help navigate these challenging waters. 

Senior living should be on your terms, and the choice should always be yours.

Call us, and we will answer all your questions and help you decide what is best for you or your senior loved one.

For peace of mind, call us at (800) 969-7176 or visit us at FloridaSeniorConsulting.com.

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Florida Senior Consulting

Transition Specialists 8130 Lakewood Main Street, Bradenton, Florida, 34202

Senior living on your terms.Whether you are looking for care at home or senior living options, Florida Senior Consulting is here to help.Our approach is different. We are the only senior service provider in Florida that:Provides direct care management at homeCoordinates senior living placement at no cost to youEmploys licensed nurses as senior advocates for optimal careAnd stays connected with you for up to 90 days after move-in to help you acclimateCall us today for a free consultation to learn how we can help with your senior living choices and assure your quality of care. The choice should be yours.

Florida Senior Consulting

Geriatric Care Management 8130 Lakewood Main Street, Bradenton, Florida, 34202

Senior living on your terms.Whether you are looking for care at home or senior living options, Florida Senior Consulting is here to help.Our approach is different. We are the only senior service provider in Florida that:Provides direct care management at homeCoordinates senior living placement at no cost to youEmploys licensed nurses as senior advocates for optimal careAnd stays connected with you for up to 90 days after move-in to help you acclimateCall us today for a free consultation to learn how we can help with your senior living choices and assure your quality of care. The choice should be yours.