Learning the Triggers of Dementia

Dementia is an umbrella term used to encompass diseases that result in a significant loss of cognitive functioning to the point it impairs an individual’s daily functioning. Common symptoms of dementia include memory loss, declining problem-solving skills, and a lack of language skills. One example of a disease that causes dementia is Alzheimer’s.

Often, dementia will start slowly and then progress. As this condition worsens, it is important for loved ones to learn the triggers of dementia as well as what they can do to address them.


Medication can be a trigger of dementia. It may cause unwanted or unpleasant side effects, and individuals with dementia might have a hard time communicating what they are feeling. Instead of stating that they feel sick, they may become aggressive.

Keep a close eye on medication and chart behavior to determine if this is a trigger. If a loved one expresses aggressive behavior after a sudden change in medication, this could be the trigger.

Medical Conditions

Medical conditions are a common trigger of dementia. Many people find that loved ones express irritability or aggressiveness when they have a medical condition that makes them uncomfortable, such as a toothache or the flu.

Have a complete physical completed if a loved one is experiencing symptoms of dementia and a trigger has not been identified. Also, maintain their health as much as possible. Monitor health conditions closely to ensure that a loved one is not experiencing any discomfort to help minimize symptoms caused by this trigger.

Sudden Change

Individuals suffering from dementia do not like sudden change, and this can cause them to display symptoms of dementia. They are often not able to understand changes all the time, which can make the symptoms they display more severe.

It is important to maintain consistency as much as possible when a patient has dementia. Routines, such as mealtimes, are a necessity. Also, avoid rearranging the room or switching caregivers. Instead, attempt to keep everything in their immediate surroundings and daily life as consistent as possible.

Too Little or Too Much Stimulation

When a loved one has dementia, they often need just the right amount of stimulation. Elderly patients need activities and things to do, but too much can give them a sensory overload which can also trigger them.

To find the perfect balance, caregivers can schedule specific activities to provide stimulation, but leave other activities an option. When patients can choose whether to participate instead of feeling forced to participate, they will often avoid further activities that have the potential to be overwhelming.

Frustration with Memory Loss

Memory loss can be frustrating for patients with dementia. They might not be able to find something after they put it away, or they might forget a loved one’s phone number when they attempt to call them. This is often a trigger for those that are in the early stages of dementia.

There are several things that caregivers and loved ones can do to prevent symptoms caused by this trigger. Picking up a phone for seniors and programming phone numbers into it is an exceptional idea. These phones have larger buttons that work well with declining motor skills, and patients will not have to remember phone numbers. Utilizing open storage options can make other things easy to find because everything is visible. Remove cabinet doors and enjoy re-decorating with a loved one to guarantee that they can find things when they need them.

Separation Anxiety

Patients that have dementia may experience separation anxiety when a loved one is away for an extended period of time or if there is a change in caregivers. They may not feel safe or secure, and they could get scared. This will result in several dementia symptoms, such as aggression, coming to the surface.

It is not possible to be with someone all hours of the day, but caregivers and loved ones can reach out to patients with dementia to help them feel more secure. Call them on their Fanmi phone so that they can hear a familiar voice or send them a text to make sure that they feel loved.

Different Perception of Things

Because people with dementia have a different view of things, certain things could trigger them that may not occur to caregivers. For example, when a person with dementia looks into the mirror, they may think that a stranger is staring at them or someone unfamiliar is in their room with them. This can make them feel frightened and can be a trigger. Freshly waxed floors look shiny, but so does ice. This confusion is a common trigger among people with dementia.

If a loved one is triggered around specific items or during certain time, it could simply be a different perception of things. For example, a patient may think that the laundry cart in a care home is their house, and they may want to go home. This can trigger them every time they see the laundry cart. Pay attention to the surroundings during triggers to help identify patient-specific triggers.

Uncomfortable Clothing

Clothing that is not comfortable can easily trigger a patient with dementia. They do have a hard time expressing when clothing is too tight or loose. Caregivers can pay special attention to the way that clothing fits loved ones to make sure that they are comfortable. If socks leave imprints on their parent’s leg, it is a sign that they are too tight. If clothing appears too small, it more than likely is. It could have shrunk in the washer, resulting in discomfort, which is a trigger.

This list of triggers is far from a complete list, but these are common triggers of dementia. It is important to remember that every patient is different. What triggers one person might not trigger another one. Because of this, it is important to discuss potential triggers with a health care provider to ensure that a loved one always feels both safe and comfortable in their environment.

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