Dementia is more than just memory loss

Mood swings and personality changes

In addition to memory loss, agitation, depression, and rapid mood swings are all common symptoms of dementia. Most of us have times when emotions can be overwhelming, but dementia patients can experience rapid changes in mood or intensity without obvious triggers. Normal personality traits become more exaggerated or can even switch with, for example, a normally even-tempered person becoming anxious and angry.

These personality changes can often be the hardest change for loved ones to experience. It is important to remember that it is the illness causing the changes and that the essence of your loved one is still there. Common personality changes include apathy, insensitivity to others, fear, and anxiety.

Difficulty sleeping

Sleep difficulties often affect the dementia patient. Although difficulty sleeping is a common problem for older adults, for the dementia patient these difficulties can be more pronounced. As the disease progresses the likelihood of having some sleep disturbances is more likely.

These disturbances can be categorized into three areas: sundowning, frequent awakenings and sleep apnea. As light changes to darkness creating shadows, some patients experience what is known as sundowning. These patients may experience anxiety and agitation interfering with their perception of reality and their ability to relax into a good night’s sleep. Frequent awakenings during the night are also common and can cause excessive sleepiness during the day. Sleep apnea is also more common in Alzheimer patients then the general public and may impact their waking and sleeping routine.


While memory loss, sleep disturbances and personality changes are easy to note in the dementia patient, depression may be harder to recognize. However, it is fairly common in the dementia patient and should be watched out for.

Symptoms such as apathy, social isolation and difficulty concentrating are frequently noted. In addition, communication issues in the dementia patient may make it difficult for them to convey feelings of sadness and isolation, compounding the situation. Caregivers should be aware of any signs of depression, especially signs of low feeling of self-worth, guilt, hopelessness and any sign of not wanting to live.

Difficulty communicating

As dementia progresses, the ability to communicate is impacted. Processing information and relaying information becomes increasingly difficult. Patients often find it difficult to start conversations or continue them. The burden of continuing conversation will then fall on the caregiver or those around them. Giving time for them to participate in the discussion or develop an answer will help immensely.

Some dementia patients can develop aphasia, increasingly losing the ability to remember words and language.

When is it time for a memory care facility?

Whether its memory loss or any of the symptoms listed above, there are benchmarks that can be used to signal that it’s time for memory care. When a person is unable to maintain several activities of daily living, such as remembering to eat, manage medications, maintain hygiene or remember familiar routes, those are indicators that it is time for help.

Safety concerns such as leaving appliances on, getting loss, falling are other red flags. And, when caregivers are struggling to give the kind of care needed, it’s time for extra hands. If you recognize any of these symptoms in a loved one, talk to your doctor. Early intervention can help.

When to know it’s time for memory care

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