Families of people recently diagnosed with dementia often complain or worry about personality changes they’ve begun to notice. One common variation: Someone who’s always been polite, controlled, and socially appropriate begins to say and do uncharacteristic things in public.

What this can look like:

  • Being rude or short-tempered with guests, hosts, store clerks, and restaurant wait staff.

  • Eavesdropping in on—and joining in on—strangers’ conversations.

  • Repeating stories over and over to clerks and other strangers.

  • Later in dementia, some people lose social inhibition.

But in mild dementia, it’s more likely that your loved one is working so hard to manage (and perhaps cover up) deficits that he or she is simmering in a sort of frustrated rage much of the time, and the smallest thing raises the mood to a boil. How to respond? Take the startled recipients of this kind of abuse aside and explain the facts. Chalk it up to the disease: “It’s not you. It’s not even him/her. It’s the dementia.”