Important Behaviors to Track in Seniors with Dementia

By Lori Thomas,

Dementia is one of the most common conditions to impact seniors today. In fact, there are millions of seniors who are currently living with some form of dementia, and the number of reported cases is only growing.

There is nothing more devastating than hearing that a senior family member or loved one has been diagnosed with dementia. However, this is a reality for millions of families every year. It can also leave many people wondering—what do we do next?

One of the best things you can do for someone who is struggling with dementia is to track certain behaviors and stay on top of any changes in behavior that you may notice. It is important to remember that every senior is different and every senior is going to have a different experience with dementia. So, your loved one may not progress at the same speed as someone else with dementia, and they may not exhibit the same behaviors as someone else with dementia either.

However, there are a few general behaviors you will still want to keep an eye on, in case your loved one needs further assistance as they continue to cope with their dementia.

Behavior: Avoiding Their Favorite Activities

When to Get Help: Over time, many seniors will start to struggle with certain tasks or activities. However, when seniors start avoiding their favorite activities all together, even if they are still able to do them—it may be a sign that something more serious is going on. There are many seniors who are understandably ashamed or embarrassed when they have been diagnosed with depression, and it is not uncommon for seniors, especially those who have been recently diagnosed, to develop depression.

If your senior loved one is no longer doing the things they enjoy and choosing to stay inside instead, this can be a sign that they need some help and they may be struggling with another mental health concern.

Behavior: Wandering

When to Get Help: The first time you notice your loved one with dementia is wandering, you need to step in. Wandering is a very common and very serious problem for those with dementia. Wandering typically happens more at night, but seniors can wander at any time, and many of them end up alone, scared and far from home—unable to get back. You don’t want this to happen. Even if they don’t wander too far the first time you notice this behavior, you should never take wandering lightly. It may be time for them to live in assisted living, with family or have a caregiver to help keep them safe.

Behavior: Failing to Keep Appointments

When to Get Help: Forgetting or missing one or two things here and there should be expected with dementia, but when a senior completely starts missing set appointments or commitments, it is time to step in. This is a sign that this senior’s dementia is truly impacting their quality of life. If your loved one is missing their grandchildren’s soccer games, failing to show up for family dinner or missing scheduled doctor’s appointments, they likely need help.

Behavior: Poor Decision-Making

When to Get Help: There are some seniors who start to become more forgetful as they struggle with dementia. However, there are times when this progresses into flat-out poor judgment. If it seems as though your loved one is exhibiting poor decision making skills that may be hurting themselves or others, it is time to step in. In many seniors, this includes poor decisions regarding money or drinking and eating to excess.

Just because a senior has been diagnosed with dementia, it doesn’t mean they should lose their independence all together. However, when you start to feel as though they are making bad decisions and harming themselves or others, it may be time to take over certain responsibilities.

Dementia is about more than just memory loss. There are so many other behaviors to keep track of, and so many more things to be aware of that many people assume. It is possible for many seniors to live independently once they have been diagnosed with dementia. However, as a loved one of someone with this disease, it is your responsibility to make sure that you are looking for signs that their dementia is impacting their quality of life. When you start to see the aforementioned behaviors and notice these signs—it may be time to step in and make sure they get the help they need and deserve.

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