Dealing with dementia symptoms:

Parietal lobe changes

Created date

August 22nd, 2019
The frontal lobe is indicated here in red, the area closest to the front of the forehead.

This article is the third in a four-part series about how to deal with dementia symptoms that result from damage to particular parts of the brain. The parietal lobe is the focus this month. 

You may have heard about the temporal and frontal lobes of the brain, which were discussed in the first two parts of the series. But the parietal lobe and its functions are not as well known.

The parietal lobe’s purposes

“The main function of the parietal lobe is to help your brain and body interpret signals received via your senses,” says Cara Skrypchuk, director of memory support services for Erickson Living.

The parietal lobe also processes information from your senses about where you are in the space around you. “For example, the parietal lobe works out how far your body is from objects near you,” Skrypchuk explains. 

Two functional regions are in the parietal lobe. “One helps you perceive sensations, and the other integrates the sensory input, coordinating it primarily with your visual system,” Skrypchuk says.

Parietal lobe damage

Like the other lobes of the brain, the parietal lobe is divided into halves on the left side and the right side of the brain. Damage to either side can result in different symptoms. 

“Damage to the left parietal lobe can cause people to stop recognizing familiar things and people,” Skrypchuk says. 

When the right side is affected, people may have trouble caring for themselves, but it’s not because they don’t want to. “Someone may neglect a part of the body or not understand how to use items that are around them,” Skrypchuk explains. “Damage to the right side may also interfere with someone’s ability to draw or assemble something.”

Safety concerns

There are some safety concerns when caring for someone with dementia, some of which may be due to parietal lobe damage. 

An inability to interpret the sense of touch means that pain is unlikely to be noticed. “Thus, it is dangerous to leave someone alone near hazards such as a hot stove,” Skrypchuk says. “In addition, they could be unaware of symptoms of an illness or injury.” 

The inability to find the way home or back to a familiar place is a safety risk among people with dementia. “People become lost because they confuse left and right, and they may not be able to see or interpret landmarks,” Skrypchuk says. 

Making life easier

Patience is hard to come by when you are a caregiver, but it is important to persevere. “Side effects of parietal lobe damage are often unpredictable,” Skrypchuk says. “Someone may seem very different from one day to the next, and you may find yourself saying the same things repeatedly.” 

The frequent frustration experienced by people with dementia can lead to emotional outbursts. “It is common for someone to express anger, confusion, or other emotions that seem out of place for the current situation,” Skrypchuk says. “Don’t take it personally, even if anger seems directed at you.”

Speaking in a calm voice may help. “If you sound upset or frustrated, they will often mirror that feeling back to you,” Skrypchuk explains. 

Your loved one’s attention span may be very short. “You can help by establishing and maintaining a daily routine, keeping a schedule of daily activities where they can see it, and placing needed objects within easy reach,” Skrypchuk says.

Unfamiliar environments can scare someone with parietal lobe damage. “Because everything can feel so unfamiliar, they may want to stay home all the time,” Skrypchuk says. “This can contribute to anxiety and depression.”

You can help by taking your loved one outside if weather permits or going for a walk indoors. “Avoid places that can exacerbate light and sound sensitivity—such as places with a lot of glare, noise, or crowds,” Skrypchuk advises. “A quiet park is a good choice.” 

Part of the family

For people with dementia, the feeling of isolation can be overwhelming, especially with the types of symptoms that accompany parietal lobe damage. 

“Keep them involved with family activities and conversations,” Skrypchuk says. “Throughout the day, have a memory book handy to share, which is an album with labeled photos of friends, family members, and familiar places.” 

Going out to visit friends or family or taking a vacation may seem like a situation fraught with difficulty, as your loved one may feel frightened, overwhelmed, frustrated, tired, and unsure of how to act. “To help them feel more comfortable, you can provide them with some familiar and favorite comforts of home such as music, a blanket or pillow, or a preferred food item,” Skrypchuk suggests.

“Always keep in mind that there will be days that are better than others,” Skrypchuk says. “Remind yourself that your loved one needs your patience, love, and support, not negativity or judgment.”