Coping with challenging personality changes as a person’s dementia progresses

Readers share advice for someone supporting a relative or friend with dementia whose personality changes are difficult to deal with.

We asked members of Dementia Support Forum and magazine readers for their advice about dealing with challenging personality changes as a person’s dementia progresses. 

Dementia Support Forum is a helpful community that’s free and open 24/7, where anyone who’s affected by dementia can get valuable support online.

Bettusboo says,

‘I think the main thing is managing yourself. Recognising when you are tired or worn down and need a break. It’s much easier to see things from the other person’s point of view and remain calm when you are feeling OK yourself. 

‘One of many personality changes I saw in my dad was that he went from being extremely generous to extremely tight and preoccupied with money. 

It was helpful to think about the childhood he had where his family was very poor to understand something about where that particular change had come from. 

‘All much easier to reflect on when I’m not feeling frazzled myself.’

sheepfield says,

‘I would say don’t take it personally. Sometimes my lovely, kind, gentle mother-in-law is grouchy with me. I’ll have to try to remember some graceful exits from situations if feeling uncomfortable with shouting and lewdness etc. 

‘I’m hoping that “I have to nip out to an appointment” will work if I need to escape a grumpy mother-in-law for a while till she forgets what she’s cross about.’

clarinet says,

‘When my hubby gets angry or anxious, there’s an underlying issue. 

‘The other week, I sat him down and asked why he was getting angry about me driving our granddaughter home. It’s a new route as they’ve moved home, he doesn’t like this route as it’s further and along a busy dual carriageway. 

‘It turns out he’s worried about me having an accident and what happens to him if I’m not there? I’ve therefore had to address this concern and ask my son to become involved delivering and or picking her up to save my hubby becoming anxious.’

masquereader says,

‘My partner has Frontotemporal Dementia, and it’s as if he’s separated mentally into two extremes of his pre-dementia personality. 

‘Almost every day he gets up very late, refusing to eat, as his “bad” dementia self: angry, cruel, paranoid. 

Later in the day, he usually morphs into his “sweet” dementia self: affectionate, dependent, probably a bit frightened of what is happening to him, appreciative of everything I do. 

‘I try to show his “sweet” self as much love and reassurance as I can, hoping some memory of that will carry over into the darker times. As for the other times, like everyone else I tell myself, “It’s not him, it’s the illness.” If he’s being verbally combative, I try not to engage with his arguments, but ask him not to talk to me like that.’

hc10 says,

‘My mother was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia over 2.5 years ago – something she does not accept at all and gets quite angry about if the subject is broached. 

‘No two days are the same and that can be very challenging and stressful, as you just don’t know what you are going to face when she wakes up. 

‘The only coping mechanism that works is not to try and defend our actions or try and correct what she is saying etc, even when she is clearly in the wrong – which frankly is easier said than done, especially, when you yourself are tired and frustrated.’

Peachieperfect says,

‘Both parents have dementia now, and so their relationship (currently in the care home) is a tinderbox. 

My only tip would be that I had to remove myself for a week or so every now and then, just to get a mental reset, and for me that worked.

Your turn: Money conflict

Do you have any advice about family disagreements over a person’s finances when they have dementia?

If so, email us at [email protected] by the end of 2 May 2024. 

Dementia Support Forum

Our online community is free and open 24/7. 

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Dementia together magazine

Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer’s Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
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Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer’s Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
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