Dementia causes all kinds of difficult behaviors in older adults. Sometimes those behaviors can be embarrassing to the people around them. In fact, if you attend a caregiver support group, that may be a common topic since nearly everyone who cares for an older adult with dementia will encounter an embarrassing situation at some point. Why does your aging relative do embarrassing things and what can you do when they occur?
What Causes Embarrassing Behaviors
Dementia damages the brain. When the part of the brain that controls a person’s inhibitions is affected by the disease, the senior no longer has the judgment that keeps them from doing things they wouldn’t normally do. They no longer recognize the social situations or cues that prevent them from doing things like swearing or removing clothing.
Embarrassing behaviors are especially common in people who have frontotemporal dementia. This part of the brain is where behavior and personality are controlled. However, the behavior can also be triggered by boredom, confusion, and frustration. In addition, older adults who grew up in an era when certain behaviors were acceptable, like racial or sexual slurs, may revert to that time period and use that kind of language.
Ways to Deal with Embarrassing Situations
The embarrassing behavior isn’t likely to be a problem for the person with dementia, but it can be troubling for the caregiver, friends and family members, and perfect strangers in public. Some ways that you can deal with embarrassing behavior are:
-Apologize: If the behavior occurs in public or around people who might be offended, apologize for the senior’s behavior. Explain that they have dementia and the behavior isn’t personal, it’s a symptom.
-Ignore It: If the behavior isn’t occurring in a situation where it is offending anyone and isn’t causing any harm to anyone, ignoring it may be the easiest way to deal with it. Sometimes trying to stop the behavior causes more of a fuss than is necessary.
-Stay Calm: Even if you choose to stop the behavior, do it as calmly as possible. Don’t yell at the older adult or argue with them. When the behavior is harmless, like talking to complete strangers, remind yourself that they aren’t hurting anyone and that it’s not a bad thing for them to socialize with other people.
Another way to manage embarrassing behaviors is to use senior care. Because embarrassing behavior is sometimes caused by boredom, having a senior care provider could make a difference. A senior care provider can keep the older adult involved in meaningful activities each day to prevent boredom. In addition, senior care providers can attend to other issues that may lead to the behaviors, such as frustration at not being able to express themselves or confusion due to the environment.