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Personality Changes

Homewatch CareGivers Is Here to Help You through It

The physical progression of dementia will present as anxiety, compulsive acts and lost social skills, which are all characteristics of certain personality disorders. It’s important to recognize that dementia is not a personality disorder, and therefore shouldn’t be treated as such.

Learning How to Adapt

As dementia progresses, your loved one will gradually become less and less like their former self. Common symptoms include loss of initiative and interest in former activities and hobbies, becoming suspicious and paranoid, mood swings, inability to recognize close friends and family, and eventually inability to perform day-to-day tasks. As all of these changes take place, caregivers must remember that although dementia can include secondary symptoms similar to certain mental illnesses, such as anxiety, compulsive acts, and social inappropriateness, these symptoms are actually the result of a person experiencing physical, emotional and environmental changes — not of a mental illness. Dementia is not a mental illness. It is also not a personality disorder, which refers to a mental illness that is characterized by deep-rooted incomplete patterns of behavior and personality.

Dementia slowly erases identity and self-worth, creating extreme changes or the complete loss of your loved one’s former personality. As dementia worsens, it’s important to resist treating your loved one like a stranger. They’re still the same person you’ve known all along, they’re just living with the effects of dementia. Whenever possible, recount stories and memories that contain keys to your loved one’s former personality and passions. Not only will this become a treasured pastime, it will help you to stay connected to the person you know and love.

Caregiving Services That Make a Difference

Personality changes in someone with dementia can be difficult for a loved one or caregiver to handle. Whether a spouse or a parent, the illness can potentially make that person aggressive, despondent, confused and more.

Physically these changes can be brought on by the deterioration of brain cells as the disease progresses, but in home caregivers should also be aware of the possibility of medications, other medical conditions and environmental influences causing personality changes in one with dementia.

The Alzheimer’s Association ( provides a list of “triggering situations” that might lead to behavioral changes in someone with dementia.

They state, “Situations affecting behavior may include” the following:

  • Moving to a new residence or nursing home
  • Changes in a familiar environment or caregiver arrangements
  • Misperceived threats
  • Admission to a hospital
  • Being asked to bathe or change clothes

“Identifying what has triggered a behavior can often help in selecting the best approach to deal with it.,” the Alzheimer’s Association notes on their site.

They also provide coping tips for when behavioral problems arise in someone with dementia:

  • Don’t take it personally.
  • Avoid being confrontational or arguing about facts (“For example, if a person expresses a wish to go visit a parent who died years ago, don't point out that the parent is dead,” states the Alzheimer’s Association. “Instead, say, "Your mother is a wonderful person. I would like to see her too.")
  • Create a calm environment by eliminating any background noise such a television.
  • Look for medical reasons behind the behavior and consult their doctor.
  • Redirect the person’s attention.

The Alzheimer’s Association also has an online network for caregivers to be in touch so that they do not feel alone in dealing with these difficult times.

If all non-drug approaches do not alter the behavior or personality changes, then there are medications. These medications are used in situations of severe symptoms when an individual is at risk to themselves or others. The Alzheimer’s Association provides a list of guiding principles to consider before selecting a medication.

Our team of Alzheimer’s care experts is here for you. Contact Homewatch CareGivers today.

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