About Alzheimer's

Selfishness

Living With Alzheimer's >> Behavior Basics | 04.24.15

Selfishness: a disdain for other people’s feelings

Among the painful aspects of observing the effects of dementia is watching a person who previously might have been kind and sympathetic become someone who is rude, insensitive and even cruel. This can vary from ignoring the feelings of others to outright mockery, such as laughing at someone who is sad, or making offensive and inappropriate comments.

Why is this happening?

Diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia can all cause significant damage to the frontal lobes of the brain. This is precisely the area responsible for controlling emotions, planning behavior and adapting appropriately to surroundings. The disease overrides a person’s innate control over insensitive behavior, making it impossible for them to curtail the changes in personality that may lead to rude or inappropriate words and actions.

How should you respond?

As usual, caregiver patience is tested in these situations. Try not to blame the person for their behavior — it is out of their control. Instead offer an apology to anyone who might have been offended by the person’s inappropriate actions and assure them that it does not represent their true nature.

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