Most dementia information advises family and caregivers not to take it personally when their loved one says something mean or hurtful.
But is it really dementia talking?
When they are in the earlier stages and still verbal, it is often hard to tell, and it seems as though they know perfectly well what they are saying. But why are they saying these things?
In a healthy brain, our frontal lobe controls executive function. This function controls planning, self-monitoring, working memory, time management, organization, thinking adaptability, reasoning and self-control. This area is commonly damaged very early, even before the memory loss becomes noticeable.
The loss of reasoning adaptability can be a bigger problem than we imagine. Lossing executive function starts out very insidiously at first and is barely noticeable. Later, it appears to be because they are aging and aren't as functional as before. They can’t manage money or spend compulsively.
Your loved one thinks he can still drive, and you can’t convince him he can’t. The person often loses impulse control and emotional restraint. He might begin to scream or become violent. This is dementia.
Then there's the delusional thinking; they believe someone has stolen from them, people talk or plot behind their back, or you mean them harm. This is paranoia, and they can't control it. Because of damage to thinking adaptability, it causes them to believe they are in danger or conspired against despite all the reasonable explanations you try to provide. This is dementia talking.
If your loved one always had a temper or suspicious nature before dementia, it may still seem like them. But don't be fooled. They use familiar words and tone of voice and those same mannerisms, but it's dementia.
I often advise families to just believe the mean, nasty words are dementia, and when they are kind, funny, and loving, it's them.
Don't try to decipher when it is dementia and when they are themselves. Just assume the negative is dementia.
In this way, it will be easier for you to emotionally weather the storms regardless of if it is really them or just the dementia talking.