When a person with dementia becomes immobile because of their condition, they may stay in the same position too long, usually in a bed or chair. If that happens they can develop pressure sores, or other fungal infections and itching.
Pressure injuries need immediate attention from a health professional as they can easily become infected and painful. The way to prevent pressure injuries is to make sure the person with dementia moves their
position often. In the later stages it’s likely they will need help from people who are caring for them to do so.
Special cushions or mattresses are available to help relieve pressure. These can reduce the effects of immobility on the person’s skin and make them more comfortable.
Side-effects of medication
All drugs can have side-effects and some of the drugs that are used to manage behaviour or symptoms in people with dementia can have severe side-effects and may even increase their confusion.
If you’re worried about the drugs and their side-effects, talk to the person’s doctor. The doctor may be able to alter the dose or change the medication.
Often in the later stages of dementia, especially when the person living with dementia becomes less able to swallow tablets, fewer medications are given, and medications are used to provide comfort, such as pain relief or medications to calm anxiety.
Illness and discomfort
When someone in the later stages of dementia becomes unwell, they may be unable to tell anyone how they are feeling.
In this case, a sudden change in their behaviour or increase in their confusion could be a sign that something is wrong. Sometimes infections can cause a person with dementia to become suddenly even more confused than is normal for them, so it’s particularly important that infections are quickly diagnosed and treated.
Severe confusion that is not a result of having dementia is known as ‘delirium’, which can develop over one or two days. Symptoms of delirium can include:
- an increase or decrease in the person’s normal levels of agitation or restlessness
- an increase in problems in being able to concentrate
- hallucinations or delusions
- becoming unusually sleepy or withdrawn
- wanting to sleep during the day and to do ‘day time’ activities during the night
- suddenly being unable to do everyday tasks such as washing or dressing themselves, or being able to work through a problem
- suddenly starting to ramble, switch subjects or not have a clear flow of speech.
If you think the person you are caring for is becoming unwell – maybe because it’s obvious, such as a fever or infection, or maybe because they are acting unusually – see their GP or talk to the residential care staff as quickly as possible.