It is totally uncharacteristic for my mom who has dementia to be cursing. How do I cope with this new personality trait?

The dementia is robbing your mother’s ability to “filter” her words and inhibit her behavior. The inappropriate language erupts, oftentimes spontaneously, to the surprise of family and friends.

Swearing can cause great embarrassment and provoke hurtful feelings for the caregiver. It is important to understand that your mom cannot control using the foul language. Dementia is essentially “brain failure” and as her brain fails so does the part of the brain that controls language.

Communication is a great hurdle in those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, as the individual can’t find the right words for things he/she wants to say, replaces names of objects with other words, and essentially, begins to speak random words or phrases that are linked together in an often intelligible manner; a form of disorganized speech, called a “word salad.”

This frustration with language, coupled with the person coping with his/her loss of memory and dependence on others, can trigger outbursts of cursing and/or name calling. Do not take her words personally or as a direct attack on you.

Look at the times your mom is in this “cursing” behavioral mode, and note what was happening around her. Were there external factors, such as noise or some kind of disorder to her daily routine? Was there a person that seemed to generate anxiety for your mom? Elements in your mother’s activities of daily living can be clues to what overwhelms her and what causes the swearing outbursts.

Yet, there may be no clear cause or trigger to your mother’s lewd choice of words, and there is no way to prevent the random cursing, but you can manage by staying calm and by not reacting in such a way that it frustrates your mother even more. It is best not to argue or challenge her. Keep calm, which may facilitate calmness with her.

You may want to redirect her, focusing on something she enjoys doing, or try going for a walk, listening to music, or having her help you with household chores. Additionally, make sure she is getting enough rest, as sleeplessness can cause irritability and also spark her foul language. Remember to take care of yourself, too!

Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder? Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, advice@alzbr.org, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.