Understanding Behavior of Persons with Dementia

The monthly caregiver's meeting was held on Saturday, 11th June, 2011 from 2.30 pm – 3.30 pm at Memory Clinic, Ground floor, Millennium Block, NIMS.

This month's topic was "Understanding Behavior of Persons with Dementia". The audience comprised of family members and ARDSI volunteers. Dr K Chandrasekhar (Vice- President, ARDSI Hyderabad Deccan and Director, Division of Neuropsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry at Asha Hospitals, Hyderabad), gave a presentation on the topic.

Dr. Chandrasekhar initiated the session by asking the participants "how do you manage the patient?" One of the participant's Mr. Nageshwar Rao spoke about a close friend's wife, who was suffering with memory loss related problems and some observed behaviors such as irritation, anger, etc.

Dr Chandrasekhar continued and said that forgetfulness is quite normal in everybody's behavior and that even normal people also searched for forgotten items, and that at times they too feel irritated and angry. So for persons with dementia we need to help them in finding misplaced items or remember things. Efforts have to be made not to make them feel as if they are forgetting by repeatedly questioning them; this way a source of conflict can be reduced.

He explained about the difference between Dementia and Alzheimer's, while "Dementia" is a common word, Alzheimer's disease is a form of dementia. There are three types of dementia. They are Alzheimer's dementia, Vascular Dementia and Lewy Body Dementia.

Alzheimer's dementia occurs due to failure of nerve cells in areas of the brain thereby causing mental dysfunctions. Whereas Vascular Dementia occurs when arteries feeding the brain are blocked and Lewy Bodies develop within the cells of the mid-brain and beneath the cerebral hemisphere. Dementia describes a collection of symptoms where a person's ability to carry out daily activities of life are affected. Dementia-symptoms also can develop as a result of some other conditions such as vitamin deficiency, and certain infectious diseases.

Patients with Alzheimer's can be treated with medications to slow down the progression of the disease but there is no cure. It is important to consult a doctor in the event of any concerns about forgetfulness or other behavioral changes, a detailed diagnosis would help in managing this disease.

He said that persons with dementia typically lose the ability to logically think and also lose track of conversation after a while. He explained differences between normal forgetfulness and those caused by Dementia. Dr Chandrasekhar mentioned that the symptoms of Dementia do not happen overnight but it is a progression of the disorder over a period of time.

There is a continuous change in behavior, where the patient will lose reasoning and face lots of stress and may withdraw from others. Dr Chandrasekhar explained the reasons for sleep disturbance, wandering and provided practical solutions to deal with those problems.

He advised participants to keep the brain active of the patient as long as possible by involving them in day-to-day activities and games instead of treating them as a "patient".

A question and answer session followed.