What makes dementia so devastating is that it diminishes the self, the mind and the body.

The deterioration of the brain’s functions means a shift in behavior. What’s worse is that these effects on behavior are degenerative. This outcome puts a heavy load and strain on caregivers, especially family members who act as primary caretakers.

Caring for loved ones with this disease is only made more complicated when the ability to maintain strong relationships seems out of reach. What brings us such despondency is the severity of the symptoms that attack a person’s ability to use their cognitive functions.

Simply put, better and healthier relationship directly correlate to effective care.

New research in Dementia, out of the University of Chichester, puts the spotlight on the effects of the inevitable behavior changes in those who suffer from dementia within residential home-care settings.

The fact is that the personalities of people with dementia will change. It’s how we, as caregivers, change also to positively impact the effectiveness of the care we provide. But more than that, the way we change as caregivers will directly give rise to something just as special: meaningful moments and stronger relationships.

Sometimes caregivers can lose sight of the bigger picture as symptoms manifest. These behavior changes can include a fluctuation in sleeping patterns, sudden changes to moods and appetite, unexpected aggression and a decline to interpersonal skills and self-care. Other symptoms can arise, as well. As a result of these effects, caregivers can face a challenging time keeping up and understanding how to best move ahead with their interactions and care.

So, what is the researching telling us? It states that a wide range of behavior changes impact not just family members, but also professional caregivers.

In addition to the strain in their ability to provide quality care, professional caregiver respondents also noted another outcome: the deterioration of family relationships and relationships between those receiving care and the care facility itself. The consensus is that this is generally upsetting to the professional. And to that effect, caregivers welcome training and support to better navigate the maze of changes. They recognize that quality care must start with better relationships and understanding.

There’s enough to worry about when we undertake the important work of caregiving. When we can achieve a clearer understanding into the challenges of evolving behaviors, we are better equipped to expect the unexpected, anticipate complications and begin to see dementia from a new perspective. This is what it means to be dementia aware!

When we achieve this, we not only improve our connections with those we love, or those we care for, but we are setting ourselves up for a successful course of care, which ultimately results in a happier course of life.