Dementia can affect many brain functions, including memory and emotional expression. But these impacts don’t affect what people with dementia think about as much as you might expect.

Dementia is a term that describes a decline in cognitive function that leads to changes in thinking, memory, behavior, language, and more.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dementia affects more than 55 million people across the world, with 10 million people being diagnosed with the condition every year. Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia, accounts for roughly 60–70% of dementia cases.

Dementia can affect the way people express themselves, both through emotions and language, which can make it difficult for them to share what it’s like living with the condition. Naturally, this can leave many loved ones wondering: what do people with dementia think about, and how does it feel?

Ahead, we’ll explore what we know about what dementia patients might think about, including other important things to know about living with dementia.

If you’ve ever found yourself lost in thought, it’s probably because humans love to think. And we think about a lot of things!

Sometimes we think about what’s going on in our lives in the present. Our relationships with our parents, children, partner, and friends come to mind. We think about what’s happening in the world around us, and all the things we have on our plate for the day or week.

And sometimes our thoughts drift to the past or future. We recall fond memories from when we were younger, the people we spent time with, and the things we did. We often think about, or even get anxious about, what might happen in our lives in the future.

People with dementia mostly think about the same things that others do, such as how their loved ones are doing, how they feel emotionally or physically, and other things that are happening in their day-to-day lives. But the nature of dementia can also lead to thoughts of loneliness, disconnection, embarrassment, and confusion, according to 2023 research.

Dementia may also affect the way they think about these things, especially when it comes to reasoning, emotions, and memory, for example.

Dementia can affect someone’s sense of judgment when making decisions, or their ability to remember people and events that have happened recently or in the past. It can cause difficulty with things like moving, speaking, or expressing oneself, affecting their interactions and behaviors.

Dementia is a progressive condition, which means that the symptoms of the condition will continue to worsen over time.

In the earlier stages of dementia, a person is likely to be aware that they’re beginning to experience symptoms of the condition. They might notice that it’s become more difficult to remember recent events or to perform the same tasks they’ve been doing for years.

But as dementia continues to progress, especially into middle and late dementia, people with the condition aren’t usually aware that they have it.

Instead, they might notice that things are different and difficult ― but they’re not able to explain or understand why. They might even think that everything is normal but that the people around them are acting differently, which can cause anxiety, frustration, and distress.

Do dementia patients see things differently?

Dementia doesn’t directly impact vision. But those with dementia may have other conditions, such as glaucoma, cataracts, or macular degeneration, that can cause a range of vision changes, such as:

  • blurry vision, especially when looking at small items
  • loss of vision in certain areas of the eyes
  • not being able to see as clearly in low light
  • trouble distinguishing between different colors
  • reduced depth perception and motion perception
  • changes in eye movements, such as rapid eye movements
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Dementia results from damage to many different areas of the brain ― including areas related to emotion processing and regulation. Because of this, people with dementia often experience much stronger emotional reactions than are typical.

If you have a loved one with dementia, you might notice that they express their emotions more strongly than usual. They may experience mood swings, easily going from being calm and interested to frustrated and upset. You may even notice that they’re more aggressive, hurtful, or mean than they used to be.

It can be painful to watch a loved one experience these emotional and behavioral changes, but it’s important to remember that it’s not a choice they’re making.

Many of these changes happen because of how dementia physically affects the brain ― not to mention, the condition itself can be scary, confusing, and upsetting. In some cases, these emotions are the only way that someone with dementia can express their needs, especially in the later stages of the disease.

Supporting loved ones with dementia

If you have a loved one living with dementia, it’s important that everyone involved — from the person with the condition to family members and close friends — gets the support they need.

As the disease progresses, your loved one will likely need support for daily care, especially in the later stages of the condition. And family members and caregivers also benefit from support, whether that’s an extra helping hand or professional mental health support.

So, here are some of our top resources to check out to help you support yourself and your loved one:

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Dementia can affect every area of someone’s life: from the way they think and feel to how they interact with the people around them. And while people with dementia generally want the same things as everyone else — connection and a sense of autonomy — the way they react to or express these needs may be different because of their condition.

If someone close to you has recently been diagnosed with dementia, consider reaching out to their care team to learn more about the support available to you.