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The Psychological Impact of Dementia on a Senior

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Coping with dementia can be challenging for both the individual with the diagnosis. Dementia alters one’s life in many ways, profoundly impacting mental and physical health. From changes in behaviour to deteriorating mental health and lower physical abilities – dementia takes a toll on one’s life.

Some of the most common behavioural and psychological impacts of dementia include agitation, aggression, depression, and apathy. Nearly every person with dementia shows one or more of these symptoms throughout their illness. If your loved one with dementia displays any of these symptoms, it might be time to take action to improve their mental health. However, you cannot help them if you don’t have sufficient knowledge, so consider familiarizing yourself with the psychological impact of dementia below.

A decline in the ability to think

Dementia affects a senior’s ability to think and respond to others. A decline in one’s ability to think can have a negative influence on their mental health, especially when one cannot communicate their feelings. This may result in negative behaviour or mood changes. Some of these changes are partly caused by damage to the person’s brain.

The best way to help a senior experiencing a decline in their ability to think is by looking beyond words and behaviours and looking for clues to understand what they are trying to communicate. For example, they may be trying to remember a person’s name but cannot. In that case, you can try to read the signs, such as pointing at the person and telling the senior their name to reduce stress.

Lower self-esteem

Dementia can result in low self-esteem, as some seniors may feel less confident about themselves. Since dementia alters one’s life, your loved one may feel frustrated by their inability to complete daily tasks or control or trust their judgement.

Many seniors also experience low esteem if people around them treat them differently due to their diagnosis. Other factors contributing to low self-esteem are employment status, physical health, and financial circumstances.

If your loved one displays low self-esteem, help them by offering praise, celebrating their accomplishments, and focusing on the positives. Try to avoid harsh criticism and be supportive in times of need.

Changes in emotional responses

Seniors with dementia often experience changes in their emotional responses as they don’t have the same control over their feelings. This makes it difficult for them to express their feelings. In some cases, the inability to express feelings can result in unexpected behaviour, such as anger or irritation. For example, a senior who’s hungry but unable to express it may feel agitated and raise their voice to express their feelings.

It’s important to understand what triggers your loved one to find a solution to the problem. If you’re unsure how to interpret your loved one’s signs or psychological impacts of dementia, consult the registered nurses at a memory care home. Specialized homes like Sagecare offer dementia to help seniors lead a better life and offer guidance to families. Their experience allows them to understand the reason behind changes in certain behaviours, allowing them to offer support as needed.

The key to understanding the psychological impact of dementia on your loved one is getting familiar with potential changes and identifying triggers. Don’t be afraid to lean on professionals for support, as they can simplify the process and allow you to help your loved one sooner.


Robert Haynes, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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