A healthy brain is approximately 3 pounds. An individual living with severe dementia has about a 2 pound loss leaving brain to weight only 1 pound. Individuals living with this much damage struggle daily with language, motor skills, forming memories, understanding and reacting to the feelings of others, managing attention and much more. Because of these constant struggles, they often express themselves through a response that presents as a behaviour. These behaviours may be physical aggression, loud vocalization, restlessness, agitation and wandering. Along with these behaviours, damage to the brain from dementia and also cause individuals to exhibit changes in their personalities. Anxiety, depression, delusions and hallucinations are common in those living with dementia.
As care givers it can be tempting to judge the behaviour of the person living with dementia and assume their actions are intentional. Seeing the actual brain damage above, allows care givers to better understand why a person with dementia may respond the way they do. Ultimately, persons with dementia are not trying to make the care givers tasks harder or cause frustration or distress to the care giver.
What causes a responsive behaviour?
Responsive behaviours are a way of persons with dementia communicate a need or a concern. When the need or concern is not met, the person with dementia will express their unmet need through a behaviour. Some common unmet needs or concerns are hunger, feeling tired, needing a bathroom, pain, fear, infection or feeling unwell, loneliness and boredom. By remembering there is a meaning for the behaviour and behaviour is a way a person with dementia communicates, care givers can then focus on figuring out what the individual needs or what is concerning them and then help them to fill that need or concern.