Unfortunately, with the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and the progression of the illness, it is common for one’s behavior to change in unexpected and unwanted ways. One common complaint and concern that is frequently expressed by the loved ones of a dementia patient is the use of swear words and foul language. This behavior change can be extremely baffling and disturbing, particularly if this type of language has never been heard from the mouth of the dementia patient. Understanding why this shift in behavior commonly occurs as one progresses through the stages of Alzheimer’s disease is a key step to accepting the unwanted behavior.
There are two sides of the brain, the right side and the left side, and both play a role in language skills. The left side controls formal language, while the ride side is responsible for automatic speech, swearing, and singing. With Alzheimer’s disease, an unfortunate reality is one’s language skills controlled by the left side of the brain fail before those controlled by the right side of the brain.
Think of it this way, as a young child, one learns swear words, and somewhere along the line, he or she is told not to use those words because doing so is wrong. That being said, simply because one stops saying the words out loud does not mean that the “naughty” words don’t still come to mind. For instance, say you slam your finger in the door. The first word that likely comes to your mind is a swear word. However, rather than blurt out the word that you know you shouldn’t say, you find a substitution word from the left side of your brain, one that is considered appropriate.
With Alzheimer’s disease, not only is impulse control lost, so is the ability to find replacement words for the foul ones that come to mind. Therefore, when your loved one searches for another word to say, there is nothing but the swear word to grasp, and this is what comes out verbally.
This video clip explains why some people with dementia develop problems with swearing (time: 1 minute 40 seconds).
Learn why some people with dementia begin using more curse words and foul language as their dementia progresses.