Embarrassing Behaviors

What do you do when sweet Mom starts cursing angrily? When straitlaced Dad makes off-color remarks?

In persons with dementia, these behaviors are not on purpose. They are caused by the brain changes of the disease. If you can’t find humor in the situation, draw on your patience. Believe it or not, your relative is doing his or her best.

Consider these strategies to reduce or discourage outbursts:

  • Stay calm. Your relative is likely frightened or uncomfortable. Try to respond with curiosity. See if you can figure out why they are behaving as they are.
  • Identify (and avoid) common triggers. Angry lashing out is often a sign of too much to handle. Look for patterns. Do they occur when you are in a rush? When there is a lot to do? Try slowing down. And keep instructions simple, one step at a time.
  • Simplify the situation. If Mom is acting out, perhaps it’s the environment. Lots of people? Too much noise or stimulation? Do what you can to go to a place that is quiet, calm, and uncluttered.
  • Go along when you can. If Mom thinks her babies need her at home or Dad wants to go to work, it’s harmless. No need to argue. Trying to persuade your loved one that he or she is wrong will only result in anger and mistrust of you.
  • Redirect attention. When embarrassing behaviors occur, try focusing your relative’s attention on something else: “Dad, look! They’ve got chocolate cream pie today.” Or, “Mom, I almost forgot to tell you….”

Check with the doctor
If these behaviors are new, perhaps dementia is at the source, or there is a problem with hearing or vision. Unexpected outbursts in people known to have dementia can also be caused by pain. An undiagnosed bladder infection is a common culprit.

Problem behaviors draining your energy?
It’s hard to care for a person with dementia! Especially when they behave in ways that are embarrassing. We at Iowa City Hospice have a lot of experience with this uncomfortable side of memory loss conditions. As the Iowa City, Muscatine and Cedar Rapids experts in family caregiving, we can help you identify triggers and develop distraction techniques to reduce these problem behaviors. Give us a call at 1-800-897-3052, toll-free.