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Elderly man thanking a nurse

Personality Changes in the Elderly – What They Mean

People can change a lot during their lifetimes – but a major change in personality can be a sign of something serious. While you should always consult a medical practitioner to attain a full diagnosis, use this guide as a starting point. After all, nobody knows your loved one like you do, and if you notice a change, you shouldn’t ignore it. Our team is always ready to answer your questions – let’s begin by learning more about personality changes in aging parents.

What Can Cause Personality Changes in the Elderly?

  • Medication side effects. Common medications can cause unexpected side effects – and the average senior fills at least 10 prescriptions a year. Sometimes, changes in personality can be explained by side effects and interactions between these drugs. So check with your loved one’s health care provider to see if medications need to be adjusted or changed.
  • Hearing and vision problems. A person’s ability to relate to others and their environment is tied in many ways to their ability to perceive – and changes in these abilities can lead to embarrassment and a withdrawal from beloved hobbies or social activities.
  • Loneliness and mental health. Changing physical capabilities that come along with getting older can make it hard to stay connected with family and friends – and the resulting isolation can contribute to depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns.
  • Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Memory loss and cognitive decline are two leading factors behind sudden or significant changes in personality. As the brain is affected by disease, loss of inhibition or even childlike behavior in elderly people can be the result.

Normal Personality Changes with Age vs. Memory Impairment

So which kinds of personality changes are normal and which ones are signs of cognitive decline? Each case is unique, but these are some of the common changes you might notice in your loved one:

  • Confusion or distress in familiar situations. Noise, conversation, crowds and activity can overstimulate seniors with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. If you notice that they seem on edge or a little lost in places they know well, be aware that it might be a sign of something more serious.
  • Increased agitation or rude outbursts. Impulse control is controlled largely by the frontal lobe – one of the main areas of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease. If your loved one is acting in an uncharacteristically rude, angry or upset manner, consider whether their behavior is caused by life’s circumstances or something affecting their health.
  • Loss of motivation or interest. Those with frontal lobe deficits might also have increased difficulty with planning and executing tasks, even ones they’ve done for decades. Diminished ability can lead to loss of interest as well-loved activities become frustrating.

Ultimately, remember this: If you’re worried about someone you love, trust that feeling. It’s better to be overcautious when it comes to their health and quality of life. While you can’t force them to seek support, your concerns could be the thing that spurs them into seeking more information. When you think something is wrong, start the conversation – and carry it on with your loved one’s doctor or specialist practitioner.

You can learn more about managing personality and behavior changes in this article from the National Institute on Aging.

Discover Our Person-First Approach to Memory Care

Tutera is proud to offer THRIVE in the Courtyard Memory Care – a holistic, wellness-focused kind of care for seniors with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. When your loved one lives in a community with THRIVE in The Courtyard Memory Care, they’ll have a customized course of support built around their needs and preferences. We’ll get to know their unique life history and work tirelessly to take good care of them – body, mind and spirit.

To learn more about how THRIVE in the Courtyard Memory Care can uplift your loved one’s life, contact us today.