As Alzheimer’s slowly robs self-awareness, the person becomes less inhibited, losing both memory of how he or she once behaved as well as a sense of social norms. It’s as if an internal filter on what’s polite behavior or not is turned off. It is important not to think of times that you loved one is acting out of the norm as “misbehaving.” They are living with a disease that is damaging their brain.
Here are some suggestions for a caregiver when their loved one is experiencing dementia related behaviors in public:
- Know that some behaviors are not what they look like. People living with dementia who are losing language skills often express themselves with actions.
- Notice what else is going on when a behavior occurs. The environment may trigger a reaction in the form of an unusual behavior.
- In some cases it is best to ignore these behaviors as reacting to them may furtherr upset the person.
- Distract by changing the scene or the activity.
- Take strangers aside and explain the situation. You may also consider creating a business card that say something like “Thank you for your understanding, my husband is living with Alzheimer’s disease.” You can hand these to a waitress or clerk to help them understand.
- If taking off clothes in public is an issue, try to assist with difficult-to-remove clothing.
- Try reacting to sexual behaviors counter intuitively by providing extra touching and affection—the person may be expressing nonsexual need for attention and human contact.