Dementia is a progressive cognitive disorder associated with aging. When caring for the elderly, most facilities will encounter patients with a form of dementia. Unfortunately, the symptoms can sometimes mimic the signs of elder abuse, causing strain on the senior’s family and friends.
Knowing the signs may help prepare facilities to handle abuse claims when a patient has dementia.
Aggression and agitation in dementia patients
One of the most common signs of elder abuse is a drastic change in a patient’s personality. The patient may experience aggression and agitation, but these are also symptoms of dementia. Patients may have verbal or physical outbursts and display aggression towards their caregivers or engage in self-harm behavior. In elder abuse cases, a family member may accuse a caregiver of provoking the behavior.
Delusions and paranoia
Globally, about 50 million people struggle with dementia. Many of these patients also struggle with delusions and paranoia as part of the condition. Delusional and paranoid thinking can cause a person to believe that the people around him or her want to cause harm. They may claim they face mistreatment or will raise an alarm that they suffered abuse from caregivers or health care providers. While all claims of elder abuse deserve consideration, a thorough investigation may reveal that a patient suffered from paranoid thinking.
You must perform a complete medical assessment to tell whether a person has dementia-related behaviors or may be in an abuse-related situation. All caregivers should also have training to handle dementia patients to reduce the likelihood of elder abuse claims.