Every person who suffers from dementia is different for sure. There is no “cookie cutter” way they behave or progress through this rough journey.
I can only share my experiences as a sister of a frontal lobe dementia victim.
These are some of the stages she went through:
She displayed this for years without us even being suspicious that she had dementia. Not having experience with dementia, I was unaware that this could be symptom. I just thought it was the usual menopause craziness!!!
Gloria accused me of changing her passwords on her email accounts, when in fact she could not remember the passwords and would be locked out. Friends stopped emailing her because she was not making sense. Only a few loyal friends remained, and they were wonderful.
Gloria was convinced that her room was infected with bugs. She taped every air vent and opening with duct tape to not allow the bugs in. This was when she was still walking to the stores, and bought several cans of Raid per week to kill the bugs. She showed me all the marks on her body that were “bug bites”. I took her to a dermatologist to put her mind at ease that the little marks on her body were normal for a woman her age. The doctor told me that she had the skin of a much younger woman (every younger sister wants to hear that comment from a dermatologist….right?) and no bites were visible. Her skin was (and still is) flawless. The Raid continued and we searched her room every time she was out to find the Raid, but she continued to buy more and hid them like a teenager would hide drugs.
Change in personal appearance:
This was really hard to watch. Gloria had a flair for fashion, and could go through a bag that I had out for Good Will and make stunning outfits for herself from its contents with a little help from belts, jewelry and accessories.
She always looked amazing. After about 2 years into the disease her appearance changed. She wore bizarre articles of clothing and layers upon layers. At times she would have 3 pairs of pants on. And sometimes pj’s as the first layer! I was embarrassed for her. Now I realize that was very selfish of me. Again, I was not in touch with what she wanted. Or should I say, what her brain told her she wanted. I just wanted her to continue to look good and now that she is not fighting me on this, I have control of what she wears and she looks better. I do always consider comfort as a priority.
Unaware of appropriate behavior:
This is also a tough one. Gloria would walk down the street (she no longer is left alone to go anywhere) and just wave to passing cars. As you might suspect, some stopped to see if she needed help. At this point in her life, she just wanted a ride to the airport to go back to the life she loved and continue her acting career. How fortunate she and we were that she never came across that one “wrong” person.
She wanted to kiss every baby she saw when she was out. (Not accepted these days.)
People who suffer from frontal lobe dementia will lose their language skills and Gloria’s were going quickly. It is extremely hard to watch this in someone you love. At this time she is down to about 8 words, and she says them over and over for every circumstance in her life. I wonder what they mean to her? I think they mean everything to her. She uses them when she sees someone new, when she tries to order food at a restaurant and (I suspect) when she wants to tell you how much she appreciates what you are doing for her and how much she loves you. We just have to figure it out and apply as needed.
SUMMARY: Don’t underestimate what a person with dementia is feeling. It’s real.