14 Effects Of Dementia On A Person [Mental & Physical]

effects of dementia

The effects of dementia on a person go from mild to severe, depending on the stage of the disease. Also, they may vary from person to person.

In other words, not all experience the same impact of dementia on their mental and physical state.

Since we are continuously doing researches and studies, you can later come back to this article and find new effects that we will add.

As a caregiver, family member or relative, it is crucial to understand the main and most common effects of dementia.

This way, you will easier recognize the disease and seek help from a doctor. Not to mention, if a person with dementia experiences rapid mood swings, you know it is not you who is the source of the circumstance.

While this might be HARD to comprehend, you need to develop a thick skin when you are around a person with dementia.

Let the effects of the disease have no impact on you.

Typical Effects Of Dementia On A Person

1. Poor nutrition

mental and physical effects of dementia
A person with dementia suffers from different emotional and physical symptoms. These can include severe loss of appetite or the loss of willingness to ingest meals.

As a normal person without any mental incapacity, it is already typical for everyone to skip a meal when experiencing constipation or toothaches.

Thus, imagine what a person with dementia who is constantly suffering from emotional and physical pain goes through and the (poor) nutrition they consequently get from these sufferings.

Additionally, another cause of poor nutrition may be traced to communication problems such that a person affected with dementia may have difficulty indicating his hunger.

Another factor could also be the lack of appetite due to frequent changes in medication. This can also cause (rapid) weight loss in patients with dementia.

2. Aggressiveness

If a person is in pain, it is normal that their behavior or mood may suddenly change without their awareness.

Aggression is another effect of dementia that may be seen in a person suffering from this kind of mental incapacity.

There are two major factors why can a person with dementia act or show aggression.

1. First is a physical abnormality.

The stress caused by physical changes to the body can affect his or her inhibitions and make them less aware of what kind of behavior is appropriate.

They may also have less tolerance for environmental changes since the surroundings may be too busy or overwhelming.

Temperature intolerance is also another reason for aggression. It is a fact that these physical changes may lead to another factor – psychological abnormality.

2. Psychological abnormality is the second factor. With this, the person affected may feel disrespected.

For example, a person may feel that he is being prevented from doing things he ought to do.

3. Reduced hygiene

reduced hygiene
It is quite normal for people with dementia to forget or neglect personal hygiene, dressing and grooming.

They may skip basic activities such as:

1. Bathing, as fear of water can sometimes be a problem.

The person may not be able to gauge the depth or temperature of the water and will be frightened to step into it.

2. Changing clothes, as changing clothes is essential for hygiene and personal freshness.

However, a person with dementia might just skip changing clothes, keep wearing the same old ones.

Thus, they might need a bit of encouragement removing dirty clothes at the end of the day and putting on clean ones the next.

Being a person who loses interest in life inevitably loses his interest in cleaning himself regularly as well.

4. Anxiety

Dementia is both a mental and a physical torture where one’s psychological well-being could really get affected.

Once affected, it causes one’s brain to be overly stressed, thus, making a person emotionally and mentally weak.

Accordingly, this is how a person with dementia develops anxiety.

He or she will start to be frightened of everything. According to the video presentation, a person with anxiety caused by dementia will be extremely withdrawn from a crowd.

It is because a crowd makes them suffocated and anxious.

An anxiety attack can be distinguished when one is experiencing heart palpitations.

Anxiety also activates a natural stress response which causes the body to increase perspiration or sweating.

Additionally, one can also experience shortness of breath during an anxiety attack.

5. Sleep disorder

sleep disorder
A person suffering from dementia is also experiencing problems in sleeping. It is because their memory seemingly becomes worse after a bad night.

However, according to studies, sleep disorders usually afflict a person in the later stage of dementia.

As the disease progresses, the damage to a person’s brain becomes more extensive and he or she gradually becomes weaker and frailer over time.

This one may be the least experienced effect of dementia but it is still essential to know how dementia affects one’s sleeping patterns.

If you see a loved one oversleeping all throughout the night or spending their time sleeping all day time and even finds themselves sleepy regularly, such circumstances may indicate that a person’s condition is getting worse.

6. Depression

When a person is suffering from dementia, his or her common response with regard to their usual routines is having uncontrollable mood swings.

Sometimes, the person becomes extremely jolly or too fearful.

Their inability to complete simple daily tasks at home, work or in school leads to multiple frustrations, and a buildup of demotivation and mental breakdowns.

These instances unconsciously lead a person to develop depression and anxiety.

Depression is the most prominent mental health problem of a person with dementia.

In some cases, symptoms of depression are often confused with the early stages of dementia but both of which are actually related to one another.

7. Communication challenges

communication challenges
Dementia makes it difficult for a person to speak or to communicate, and this can be upsetting. This is another effect of dementia that can make a person frustrated.

You might hear persons affected using filler words most of the time when trying to express themselves.

It is because they are having trouble finding the right words/sentences on how they can describe what they feel, what they want to eat, or even what they want to do.

Besides, a person with dementia may repeat words or phrases and stutter every time they try to communicate with other people.

We all need to communicate regarding our needs, wishes, and feelings. Losing the ability to communicate effectively negatively changes the quality of our life.

8. Repetitiveness

According to Enomwoyi Damali, living with her mother who has dementia has taken some time adjusting to. Her mother usually asks her the same things over and over again a hundred times.

In the latter part of this mental illness, this effect of dementia occurs and becomes cognizable.

The cause of repetitiveness is the feeling of being anxious and frightened as well as seeking comfort, security, and reassurance.

A person affected with dementia may also have trouble understanding what’s going around him or her because of memory incapacity, hesitations, loss of feeling for a time and even boredom.

Always try to remember that the person is not difficult on purpose as this effect could be more frustrating to them more than what you feel every time you listen to him or her.

9. Trouble adapting to the environment

trouble adapting to the environment
A sudden change in surroundings could really make a person hard to adapt.

This is an impact of dementia wherein a person does not enjoy changes as much as what he or she was used to.

Small changes could incite negative emotions in the person who is suffering from dementia, and changes from the environment can also result in confusion and feelings of being frightened frequently.

A constant change in one’s environment can also result in anxiety attacks.

A person who is having a hard time concentrating, thinking, and expressing one’s emotions might not accept or totally reject adaptation to the environment.

10. Irritability and mood swings

irritability and mood swings
In the mid and especially late stages, a person who has dementia may begin to lose control of his impulses.

This is the most alarming effect of dementia, which may lead to hurting another person emotionally.

A person who has dementia may even say tactless things, like “Gosh, you look old!”, which they would never say before.

In the later stage, more aggressive acts often seem to come out of nowhere, including cursing, arguing, shouting, and even threatening.

As dementia gets worse, the person loses tolerance for a lot of things and situations which makes his or her mood change constantly.

11. Stressed family relationship

stressed family relationship
Engaging with a person suffering from dementia in the house can be quite stressful, not only to the one in charge but also to the one taking care of the person with this mental illness.

A person with this kind of brain incapacity requires a lot of attention, understanding, and patience.

It could also be so tiring doing the routine regularly. This engagement could cause a domino effect with other family members.

Recognition could be a problem as well and should already be expected, as the person affected may not recognize anyone of the family members when things get worse.

A person may only remember their parents; or in the worst-case scenario, no one.

12. Demotivation

If one is sad, he is most likely to feel sluggish and lazy for a short time.

If one is depressed, he or she is unable to get the strength to be motivated which may persist for months – even years.

For a person diagnosed with dementia, it is twice as worse.

An individual who is dealing with the effects of dementia often loses the eagerness to fight it or looking at life with a positive outlook.

Now that his mental capability slowly weakens, his reason for living and fighting for the people whom he used to know and care for dies.

Anxiety and depression are two of the common reasons why a person especially suffering from dementia can be demotivated.

These certain groups of people need tons of genuine moral, financial, and emotional support from family members friends to make them feel secured, well-attended, loved and respected.

And that no matter what happens, there is always a reason to look forward to another day even if they do not remember how to anymore.

13. Trouble learning new things

trouble learning new things
If your loved one is diagnosed with dementia (predominately any type), one of the effects is trouble/difficulty learning new things and solving problems.

It becomes very evident that even if you repeat them what to do several times, not only do they not show interest in it, they are struggling, too.

Offer a helping hand and together solve the task.

The last thing you would want to do is to start screaming and yelling at them.

Unfortunately, this is part of the progression of dementia. Instead, you should introduce all sorts of different dementia activities which will help keep their brain active.

Said that, keep them engaged in various exercises as often as possible for as long as possible. This will slow down the process of dementia, worsening their well-being.

14. Unable to concentrate

effects of dementia- unable to concentrate
Unfortunately, with the progression of dementia, a patient will eventually have a hard time concentrating and focusing. Their attention span will decrease drastically, too.

In some instances, the slightest distraction can put them off, almost forgetting what they were doing just seconds ago.

As a caregiver, family member or friend, in these situations, patients matter most. One thing you must absolutely not do is to argue with the person.

It is an unpleasant effect of dementia that we cannot avoid but alleviate.

With different exercises, like opposite cards and other fun memory activities, you can contribute to the lack of their concentration, aiming to boost the attention span.

Most importantly, always keep calm.

Dementia And Eating Issues In Patients

dementia and eating issues

For a person with dementia, the topic of dementia and eating is important to discuss.

This is because individuals with dementia usually go through several changes; one of them being how they eat.

Below you will explore some of the common eating challenges persons with dementia face.

It is important to understand each to act accordingly.

Common Eating Challenges for Persons with Dementia

Poor Appetite

poor appetite
A high percentage of individuals who have dementia experience lack of appetite at some point.

There are several explanations of why individuals can lose their appetite, including:

1. Depression

It is common for people with dementia to go through depression, which can be the cause of loss of appetite.

If you notice that a loved one or person under your care has depression, talk to your doctor right away.

He or she will prescribe the ideal medication or other therapies to help treat depression.

2. Constipation

This is another problem that can make one feel nauseous and bloated; thus, feel less likely to eat.

Try and avoid constipation by making sure the person with dementia takes lots of fluid and foods that are rich in fiber. If this condition becomes worse, consult your GP.

3. Communication

An individual who has the illness may have a tough time communicating well that they are hungry or do not like the food in front of them.

Take cue of how such people try and pass the message. For instance, closing the mouth for refusing to swallow can be an indication that they do not like the food that is on the table.

You can offer food choices using pictures and prompts so that a person can enjoy what they are eating.

Other factors that can trigger loss of appetite include when a person is experiencing pain, tiredness, changes in medication, or lack of physical exercises that make one not feel hungry.

Mouth Infections

mouth infections
There are times when dementia and eating issues come about because a person simply cannot eat the food even when they want to.

They can have bad teeth, redness, or sores in the mouth. If this is the case, visit a dentist to get a practical solution.

Caregivers can also help by taking care of their loved ones’ dental hygiene. This includes ensuring that they brush and floss their teeth at least two times a day.

It is also advisable to serve foods that are easy to chew. Solid foods can be cut into small pieces to make them more manageable.

You may also have to seek the services of an occupational therapist if a person is having challenges moving their muscles to open the mouth.

The professionals will come up with ways to help them eat.

Insatiable Appetite

dementia and eating - insatiable appetite
While some people with dementia will experience loss of appetite, others will want to eat non-stop.

It may be possible that they may have forgotten when they had the last meal or be afraid of where the next one will come from.

Naturally, this is not healthy as overeating also comes with its fair share of negative health issues.

To try and tackle such a situation, you can serve five-to-six small meals throughout the day.

You can also avail of low-calorie snacks like carrots and apples that the person will munch on when they feel hungry.

Remember to cut down on processed foods, refined sugars, and foods with high sodium levels.

Engaging the individuals in physical exercises or other enjoyable activities can also help to take their mind off food.

Sweet Cravings

dementia and eating - sweet cravings
Some individuals with dementia will all over sudden develop a sweet tooth where they are always craving something sweet to eat.

Although you can give in to their demands a couple of times, it is not right to always give them sweet foods that are not good for their health.

To manage the cravings, you can opt to try food items like egg nogs, milkshakes and low-calorie ice cream that can help satisfy the cravings without causing too much damage.

Fruit can come in handy during such times. You should also check some of the side effects that the medicine the person with dementia is on.

Some antidepressant medications can make someone crave sweets. It is also advisable to share meals with your loved ones as this might increase their chances of eating the healthy meal you provide.

Decreased Judgment

decreased judgment
Another factor that may contribute to dementia and eating problems in an individual is decreased judgment.

This is where a person with dementia may not be able to know what food items are on their plate or what to do with the cutlery before them.

You may notice that a person tries to eat from a cup rather than a plate.

Some may even use knives to try and pick up food instead of a spoon or fork.

To help with such, you can cue the person with actions or words so that they can mimic the effects of eating like putting food on a spoon and taking it to the mouth.

If the person is still struggling, be respectful and ask if they need assistance and go-ahead to offer a hand in a way that does not make them feel less of a person.

You can also serve finger foods that do not require utensils to consume like sandwiches and miniature quiches.

Swallowing Difficulties

trouble swallowing
Some patients with dementia will experience Dysphagia, where they have difficulties swallowing food.

This can come about as a result of the changes that occur in the brain.

Environmental changes like noisy dining rooms can also make one experience difficulties while swallowing.

You must be very careful with this because it can cause further problems like choking, poor nutrition, aspiration where food goes down the wrong way in the lungs, and reduced life quality.

To give assistance, it is vital to create a comfortable and relaxed eating environment where a person will be at ease.

You can also use contrasting colored cutlery and plates so that the individual can easily see the food.

It may also help to offer small food amounts so that they can swallow without too much difficulty.

Softer textured food might also be an option as it is easy to chew and swallow.

A speech and language therapist can help when you feel like the swallowing issue is getting out of hand.

Agitation and Irritability

agitation and irritability
During mealtimes, a person with dementia may experience behavior changes where one becomes angry, agitates, or irritable.

These can manifest in different ways like spitting out food, throwing away the food, or simply refusing to eat.

Before you dismiss the individual, try and find out why they are acting this way.

Some possible reasons for this behavior changes may include:

  • The food is too hot
  • A person does not like what is on the table
  • They are frustrated by the eating difficulties they are facing
  • Rushed eating
  • They do not like the eating area or the people around
  • They want assistance eating, etc.

When faced with such a scenario, remember to be as calm as possible so that it does not escalate and become worse. Never put pressure or rush a person as they eat.

You can also take the food away and wait for them to cool down before offering something to eat or drink.

It is also important to try and read body language to pick up clues on what the person wants.

You should also note that this is not the time for criticism and nagging. Offer plenty of support keeping in mind that the individual may not be in control of how they react.

They act the way they do because of the changes that happen in their brain because of the memory-loss disease.

Declining Motor and Visual Abilities

declining motor and visual abilities
In regards to dementia and eating problems, the individual with the illness may experience a decline in motor and visual abilities as the disease progresses.

He or she may have a difficult time trying to comprehend where some objects concerning each other.

This often affects co-ordination and movement, which can cause problems when a person is eating.

Some helpful tips that can make things a lot easier for the person with dementia include offering colorful foods that are easily distinguishable.

You may also want to avoid the use of paper napkins or Styrofoam cups that a person might eat by mistake.

Store away the fragile China porcelain and do not place sharp knives on the table. It is also recommended to offer one food at a time to avoid overwhelming the person with dementia.

Closing Thought

Eating well is essential for anyone who has dementia if they want to stay healthy. A balanced diet is key to enhancing the quality of life. Not eating enough makes you prone to unhealthy weight loss, lower muscle strength, higher risk of infection, and a myriad of other health problems.

For people with dementia, it is vital to work closely with a dietician who will advise on the best foods to consume at every stage of the illness.

You should also note that each person’s dementia and eating journey is unique. For this reason, it also helps to take into account an individual’s culture, history, beliefs, and preference when coming up with diet plans.

This will help you to tailor appropriate eating solutions that will meet their preferences and nutritional needs.

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