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The Sounds of Dementia

One of the prevalent misconceptions that the general public has about dementia is that it only affects one’s memory. This is the furthest thing from the truth. The fact is that dementia can also affects one’s mobility, eyesight, language skills, behavior and the sensitivity to sounds. You may have a loved one that’s living with dementia in the more advanced stages of the disease and notice he or she (potentially have) trouble experiencing a public environment, such as a restaurant. You and a person who doesn’t have dementia can sit across from each other in a booth and have a perfectly normal conversation. However, if someone living with dementia was sitting across from you, that person may not be able to tune out all the other conversations happening in that public setting. For him or her, trying to focus only on your voice may be very disturbing, and difficult to do. I have a dear friend who has been diagnosed with dementia and has experienced this for many years now, and he has explained to me that walking into a store, such as a Walmart, is like entering an amphitheater. The music, the voices, even the sounds of people pushing their shopping carts around completely overwhelms him. Sometimes he says, it’s almost deafening. I have another friend whose daughter and grandchildren, whom he loves very much, all live in the same small house. He tells me there are days where he can’t find a room silent enough for him to be in his own house. He stated to me that he’s very pleased when summer school break is finally over, because at least he has the calmness of his days back. A simple door closing may not affect you or me; however, to someone with dementia, it can be as if someone has just slammed the door shut, causing a person living with dementia to practically jump right out of his or her skin. Therefore, in co-existing with these folks, we need to always try to be considerate enough to at least warn them of an impounding loud noise. Also, ask them about volumes: is the television volume bothering them? Or, is the radio is too loud? We need to realize that their symptoms of dementia may be taking away the ability to handle sounds that were perfectly normal to them prior to their diagnosis. Reassure these folks that if there’s anything bothering them, they can come openly to you and that you will take care of the problem if possible. Our goal as caregivers should be to keep their anxiety levels as low as possible, if all this consideration means a little more quite time in their home, then all be it.

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