Caring for someone with frontotemporal dementia: Symptoms

Caring for someone with frontotemporal dementia means dealing with the symptoms of this condition. Such symptoms include the following:

·         Aggression.

·         Agitation.

·         Apathy.

·         Compulsive behavior.

·         Confusion and impaired thinking.

·         Delusions.

·         Depression and social isolation.

·         Difficulty swallowing.

·         Eating problems.

·         Hallucinations.

·         Language problems.

·         Sexual disinhibition.

Caregiver tips to deal with the symptoms of frontotemporal dementia



·         Make sure your loved one is not in pain and sees his or her doctor in case of any illness, even a cold or arthritic pain – which can trigger behavioral changes.

·         Do not talk to the person sarcastically or abstractly.

·         Reduce TV, radio, and other distractions.

·         Keep a routine.

·         Introduce changes gradually.

·         Do not rush the patient.

·         Refrain from arguing even if you are right.


·         Do not restrain the person by yourself.

·         Call 911 if necessary to protect yourself and others.

·         Remain calm, lower your voice and be aware of body language.

·         Don’t argue or rationalize.

·         Validate and empathize with the person’s feelings.

·         Provide a snack, a walk, or any other distracting activity.

·         Take a break and go to a different room – if it’s safe to leave the person alone.


·         Try to identify and avoid things that trigger anxiety or agitation.

·         Ensure that the person is not in pain, hungry, or thirsty, and does not need to go to the bathroom.

·         Do not touch the person if they are angry, as they might construe as a threat as opposed to comfort.

·         Talk about things they enjoy.

·         Speak calmly.

·         Do not become agitated yourself.

·         Ensure the person is getting enough sleep.

·         Maintain a regular schedule.

·         Reduce stressful elements.

·         Keep a quiet environment.

·         Cover their eyes with a mask or cloth to try and decrease fear and anxiety.


·         Start an activity.

·         Prompt your loved one to participate in the activity.

·         Encourage them.

·         Show the person what they need to do.

·         Do not take over the activity.

Compulsive behavior

·         Distract the person.

·         Keep in mind the person may be bored and looking for something to do.

·         Try to turn compulsion into a useful activity.

Confusion/impaired thinking

·         Reduce environmental activity and noise.

·         Maintain a regular routine.

·         Reminisce times past with your loved one.

·         Keep visits short if you notice that visitors affect the person negatively.

·         Minimize the presence of new faces.

·         Limit choices.

·         Comfort the person using a calm tone of voice.

·         Use short, simple sentences.

·         Puzzles, stacking blocks, or matching pictures are cognitive activities that might help.


·         Avoid arguments and disagreements.

·         Instead of denying the delusion, offer your opinion about it.

·         Reassure and comfort the person.

·         Redirect the person to a comforting activity.

·         Turn TV, radio, or computer off if you think they are the source of the delusion.

·         Keep brightly lit rooms so that objects are not misidentified.

Depression/social withdrawal

·         Keep the person engaged in activities that match his or her abilities.

·         Walking, swimming, gardening, and other physical activities help relieve depression.

·         Visitors may help cheer the person up – so long as they do not agitate your loved one.

·         Talk to a doctor about medications.

Difficulty swallowing

·         Talk to your doctor about pureed food and food thickeners.

·         Supplement a decreased a diet with nutritional drinks.

·         Regular oral care might improve your loved one’s ability to swallow.

·         Request a swallowing evaluation from your doctor.

Eating problems

·         Try to identify and avoid things that trigger eating behavior problems.

·         Substitute candy with fruit.

·         Reduce unhealthy snacks.


·         Do not argue or disagree about the hallucination.

·         At the same time, do not pretend to see or hear the hallucination.

·         Admit that you do not see or hear the hallucination but acknowledge that your loved one does.

·         Redirect the person to a comforting activity.

·         Cover glass surfaces and mirrors to avoid visual disturbances.

·         Turn the TV off to avoid flickering, changing light.


·         Use common words and short sentences.

·         Do not talk to the person as if they are an infant.

·         Use positive statements.

·         Speak slowly.

·         Give the person time to express themselves.

·         Explore alternatives such as writing or body language.

·         Make and keep eye contact – facial expressions may help.

Sexual disinhibition

·         State to the person what behavior is inappropriate.

·         Avoid things that trigger the behavior.

·         Let friends and relatives know that it is the disease and not the person acting up.

·         Print cards that explain and excuse the behavior.


Related: Caring for someone with frontotemporal dementia vs. Alzheimer