Caregivers, both lay and professional, need to be aware that there is a direct correlation between the nature of the disease the person is experiencing and the behavior their loved one is exhibiting.
Therefore, professionals must first seek to learn about the essential person behind the disease. It is not possible to treat such people appropriately until we know the answers to the following basic questions:
- Who is the man or woman?
- What is important to him or her?
- Does he or she have different perceptions than me?
- How does he or she feel?
- What were their personality, habits, routines, hobbies, and passions?
- What is their family history?
Behavior, especially problem behavior, does not occur at random or in isolation. Behavior in cases of dementia follows a course that corresponds to the process of the disease.
The behavior of people with dementia is exacerbated by stressors such as terror, confusion, frustration, misconceptions, disorientation, and (justifiable) anger. The actions of the person afflicted are seldom premeditated, but instead are based on feelings rather than thoughts.
Alzheimer’s is a disease that progresses without visible “markers.” But we can observe the behaviors of someone afflicted to give us clues about that person’s functional abilities. We then build a plan of care that appropriately addresses the person’s needs.
Connecting our knowledge of the person and the disease he or she is experiencing to the behaviors he or she is exhibiting allows us to give appropriate care to that person. Using this link is the only true way to deliver dementia care. The hope and challenge that we face is to preserve and cherish the parts of the person that are not affected by the disease.