As we reconnect with our loved ones and family members this holiday season, how do we approach behavior changes in our seniors? Noticeable behavior changes can be an early indicator of a greater condition. So it’s important to keep an eye out for recent changes in your loved one’s behavior.
This year has been different from all the rest. Many of us haven’t seen relatives as regularly as we used to or would like to. For our senior loved ones, so much can happen to their health in a short time, causing cognitive or behavioral changes that affect their personality.
What are the Symptoms of Behavioral Changes?
The aging process doesn’t completely change who your loved one is, although certain aspects of aging can highlight or hide certain aspects of their personality. Life is filled with ups and downs, however be on the lookout for these kinds of behavior changes:
- Confusion, sudden memory loss, disorientation
- Changes in dress and appearance
- Unexplained fatigue
- Aggression, frustration, and anger
- Depressed mood lasting longer than a few weeks
- Social withdrawal
- Changes in weight, either gaining or losing excessive weight
What Causes Behavior Changes in Seniors?
Maybe you’ve known your loved one your entire life. You’re familiar with their stories and mannerisms, as well as what to expect from their personality. But what happens when your loved one is no longer behaving like their normal self?
There are many causes of behavior changes in seniors, ranging from slight issues to more serious conditions. Below are the most common causes for sudden behavioral changes.
Medication Side Effects
Medication overuse, misuse, and adverse medicinal interactions are the primary cause of sudden behavioral changes. Seniors on average take four or more medications daily. Sometimes combining multiple medications or taking too much medication creates adverse interactions, leading to behavioral changes.
Perhaps the reason your loved one is acting differently is because they can no longer understand or hear the conversation around them. It’s common for seniors to feel embarrassed or even try to compensate by being defensive when asked if they are struggling. Luckily, hearing aids or other treatments can help if hearing issues are discovered.
Visual perception cues might be lost on your loved one. This can cause you to think that they’re acting strangely, when in fact, they may just have difficulty seeing. Cataracts or worsening eyesight make it harder for seniors to see where they are walking or who they’re talking to, possibly giving the perception that they’re confused.
Visiting an ophthalmologist can be beneficial to get their vision checked, see if their prescription can be improved, or if they need other treatment.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s and dementia affect a person’s mind in many ways, making them forgetful and causing them to have trouble communicating. Your loved one may become confused or frustrated because they can no longer keep up with conversations. Dementia also affects the way the brain perceives noise, crowds, and conversation, causing your loved one to be too over-simulated to engage with others.
Mental Illness like Anxiety, Depression, or Trauma
Has your loved one recently experienced loss or trauma? It’s normal in the aging process to feel depressed occasionally and to experience trauma. However, if your loved one is still exhibiting behavior changes after several weeks, it’s time to consider helping them find additional support.
Approaching Elderly Loved Ones to Help
It’s not always easy approaching your loved one to offer help. Sometimes their pride gets in the way of their treatment. It’s common for seniors to feel embarrassed or scared to reveal recent health changes to their family.
The first step in helping your loved one is recognizing when they need help. This holiday season, social distancing makes it harder to spend time with your loved ones. It makes it increasingly important when you visit, call, or drop off groceries, to be vigilant and look for warning signs of behavior changes.
Offer you support in helping your loved one care for themselves. For example, offer to drive them to their doctor’s office or help them set up a virtual doctor visit. Your presence and interest will ease the burden of them facing their medical concerns alone.
If you notice changes that concern you, consider offering them help with household chores, grocery shopping, or other needs that allows you to get closer with them and to observe any changes in their behavior.
If Your Loved One Needs More Extensive Care
There could be many reasons or explanations for why your loved one has started behaving differently. And it could be as simple as starting a new medication, or as complicated as beginning to show early signs of dementia.
If recent behavior changes cause your loved one to experience too much confusion or frustration that it limits their ability to perform their regular daily activities, then it may be time to consider more extensive care.
At The Kensington, we provide a safe and loving state-of-the-art assisted living and memory care community with nurses available 24/7 and a friendly, healing atmosphere in which your loved one can thrive.
We customize care according to each guest’s specific needs, striving to give every guest the maximum amount of independence possible.
At The Kensington, we promise to care for your loved one as we would our own. If you are curious about ways The Kensington can help your loved one, please reach out for more information on our community and services.