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For many families, dementia presents a challenging chapter. As a loved one’s familiar personality shifts and memories fade, you may ask yourself, “What is it like to have dementia?”

While the cognitive changes are undeniable, it’s important to remember the person behind the diagnosis. Here, we’ll explore the ways Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can affect a person’s emotions, offering insight into the challenges they might face.

We’ll discuss what your loved one might be feeling as they journey through symptoms of dementia, and how memory care communities are designed to support emotional health. Through understanding and tailored support, let’s navigate this journey together, honoring your family member’s unique story.

Understanding Memory Loss

This is one of the most noticeable symptoms of dementia. It goes beyond occasional forgetfulness. People with dementia might struggle with short-term memory (like what they had for breakfast) and have difficulty recalling important information from the past, even familiar names and faces.

What Your Loved One Could Be Feeling:

  • Overwhelmed: The effort of remembering can be exhausting, so patience and understanding go a long way.
  • Anxious: Changes in memory can be unsettling, a calm presence can offer some comfort.
  • Frustrated: Basic tasks they once performed effortlessly become challenging hurdles, breeding a deep sense of frustration.
  • Determined: Despite the challenges, your loved one may hold a strong desire to maintain independence.

Coping With Confusion and Disorientation

Dementia can create a disorienting fog, making even the most familiar places seem strange. Your loved one might not recognize their own home or have trouble navigating their neighborhood. They could also lose a sense of time, forgetting the day, month, year, or season.

What Your Love One Could Be Feeling:

  • Afraid: Feeling unsure of where they are or who is around them can be incredibly frightening.
  • Frustrated: Struggling to make sense of the world and losing track of time can lead to exasperation and a sense of helplessness.
  • Distrustful: Confusion can sometimes warp perceptions, leading to feelings of suspicion or wariness – even toward familiar faces.
  • Isolated: Feeling lost and disconnected from their surroundings can lead your loved one to withdraw, increasing feelings of isolation.

Grasping Language Changes

Dementia can make it harder to process and express spoken and written language. Your loved one may have difficulty following conversations, especially in environments with background noise. They might also struggle to find the right words, and their sentences might become less complex.

What Your Loved One Could Be Feeling:

  • Self-conscious: Struggling to communicate can leave your loved one feeling vulnerable and exposed. They may withdraw to avoid embarrassment.
  • Misunderstood: Difficulty expressing themselves can sometimes lead to agitation or outbursts, which others might misinterpret as aggression or bad behavior rather than frustration.
  • Disconnected: Communication is how we share ourselves with the world. When language falters, your loved one might feel a profound sense of loss and isolation.

Adjusting to Changes in Task Completion

Maintaining attention and following a task through to completion can get challenging. Distractions, confusion, and frustration can easily derail the process. The steps involved in a task may become jumbled, or your loved one might get stuck repeating a single step of a task, unable to progress to the next one.

What Your Loved One Could Be Feeling:

  • Discouraged: These struggles can be deeply disheartening. Imagine the frustration of skills that once came easily slipping away.
  • Loss of Purpose: Many people find purpose and routine in daily tasks. The inability to perform them can contribute to feelings of helplessness and fear of losing autonomy.
  • Vulnerable: Needing help with basic things can be difficult to accept. Your loved one might feel embarrassed or frightened by these changes.

woman walking outside with her senior motherNavigating Mood and Personality Shifts

Just as dementia affects thinking and memory, it can also influence a person’s emotions and behavior. You might see fluctuations in mood, from anxiety and sadness to restlessness or irritability. Frustration and confusion can also lead to outbursts or agitation out of the blue as a way of expressing their discomfort or unmet needs.

What Your Love One Could Be Feeling:

  • Loss of Control: Declining abilities and the growing need for help can be deeply demoralizing, leading to feelings of helplessness and frustration.
  • Distressed: Difficulty communicating can create unmet needs. A person who is hungry, in pain or uncomfortable might become distressed but not be able to express what’s wrong.
  • Grief: Your loved one may be acutely aware of the changes they are experiencing, which can bring feelings of grief and sadness.

Fostering Well-Being in Your Loved One With Dementia

Caring for a loved one with dementia is a journey of compassion and adaptability. Prioritizing their emotional well-being throughout this process is vital. Here are some ways to offer comfort and connection:

  • Validate Their Experiences: Even if their feelings seem confusing or unwarranted, acknowledge them with empathy. “I understand you’re feeling frustrated” or “I see you’re worried” can be incredibly comforting.
  • Connect Beyond Words: When communication becomes difficult, the power of touch and presence remains strong. Holding a hand, offering a gentle hug or simply sharing quiet moments together can provide much-needed reassurance.
  • Adjust How You Communicate: Speak slowly and clearly, favoring short sentences and simple words. Ask questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no.” Remember, smiles, gestures, and eye contact convey a great deal.
  • Prioritize Comfort and Calm: Make sure your loved one’s basic needs are met. Hunger, thirst, discomfort or feeling too hot or cold can all worsen agitation. Create a soothing environment with soft music or familiar objects.
  • Simplify Everyday Tasks: Daily tasks can feel overwhelming. Break them down into smaller, easier-to-follow steps. Lay out clothing in the order to be worn, or provide step-by-step picture instructions for tasks like washing hands.

Remember, patience and a loving presence are the most powerful tools you have. Focus on their current abilities and celebrate small victories.

How Memory Care Emotionally Supports Your Loved One

Memory support neighborhoods, like Laurel Square and Azalea Trace at The Village at Gainesville, understand that true care extends beyond physical needs. They create a safe and supportive environment designed to nurture the emotional well-being of residents living with dementia. Here’s how they make a difference:

  • Empathetic Caregivers: Memory care staff receive specialized training to understand the unique challenges of dementia. Their patience, compassion, and ability to manage confusion and emotional changes offer both reassurance and stability.
  • Celebrating Each Win: Memory care focuses on what your loved one can do. Activities are tailored around their interests and abilities, promoting a sense of purpose and belonging.
  • A Community Designed Just for Them: Memory care communities are easy to navigate, with clear cues and calming spaces. Structured routines create predictability, minimizing the confusion and frustration your loved one might face at home.
  • The Power of Connection: Specialized activities and social programs encourage residents to connect with others facing similar experiences. This fosters a sense of community, combating loneliness and isolation.
  • Focus on Joy: Activities emphasize enjoyment and accomplishment, building confidence and celebrating small victories.
  • Proactive Support: Staff are trained to recognize signs of emotional distress. They can collaborate with health care providers to offer proactive support for your loved one’s changing mental and emotional needs.

senior woman hugging her elderly motherDiscover Whole-Person Memory Care With Heart

Along with compassionate emotional support, Laurel Square or Azalea Trace memory support within The Village at Gainesville offers specialized dementia care designed to enhance each resident’s emotional well-being and quality of life.

Our care team is trained in renowned memory methodologies, the Botes Memory Method and the Positive Approach to Care®. With our support, you’ll gain peace of mind and more time to focus on connecting with your loved one. Schedule a tour online or call 352-231-8706 to learn more about our community.