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Dementia and personality changes - video transcript

The symptoms of dementia will get progressively worse and will affect a persons ability to do everyday tasks. The inability to complete tasks can lead to frustration and affect their mood and behaviour. Learn more from an expert about the symptoms of dementia and how it can impact on everyday life.

Video transcript

Sally

I can understand Carol's frustration with her memory. It makes doing things that she does every day that much harder. And she is very angry that she can't drive anymore. I want her to be safe. But stopping her doing things is making her more angry. She was never like that.

Professor Susan Kurrle

Frustration it is very common in people with dementia, particularly in the early stages when people can no longer do what they used to be able to do very easily. Certainly being unable to use a household appliance can generate a huge amount of frustration.

Being unable to read the newspaper, being unable to use a phone, being unable to play the piano, or prepare a meal can all cause frustration that often manifests itself as aggression or anger against other family members.

In dementia, as the disease progresses, there are often personality changes. Usually underlying personality characteristics are caricatured by the dementia. So if someone has been always quite a nice person, they actually become nicer. But if they've been a little bit suspicious, they become paranoid. If they've been a bit careful with their money, they become downright miserly.

So there are some personality changes that do need to be taken into account by the family, and it's good to be prepared for those. If they've always been a worrier, they'll worry more. If they've always been anxious, they'll become more anxious although they won't know what they're anxious about.

Wandering is another important symptom seen often in the middle and later stages of dementia. It's often related to people looking for something. If you don't recognise your house as your home, and you're looking for the home you lived in 30 or 40 years ago, then you will go outside in the street and look for that.

Wandering can be quite difficult to address where people, perhaps, live in a city environment and could wander out onto the road. One way to deal with it is to take them out for regular walks so that the exercise is happening. One is to reassure them and have photos that they actually are at home. Can be very effective in reducing the agitation that leads to wandering.

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Last reviewed: December 2015

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