A person with dementia may unexpectedly become tearful, start crying, or have sudden screaming episodes. This can be very upsetting to experience, for everyone: a person with dementia, caregivers, and people around them.
Possible reasons why your loved one with dementia cries often include:
- Sundown syndrome or sundowning – a condition of the increased anxiety and agitation typical for dementia where these emotions and behaviors escalate toward the evening. Common sundowning behaviors involve crying, calling out, fearfulness, mood swings, pacing, falls, paranoia, and hallucinations.
- Physical and external causes such as pain, exhaustion, hunger, toilet needs, routine change, an environment that is too loud, or too busy.
- Emotional and mental factors such as loneliness, confusion, anxiety, boredom, depression, and delusions.
Also, a condition known as pseudobulbar affect (PBA) can trigger sudden, excessive crying as well as inappropriate laughter. In people with dementia, the brain cells lose the ability to communicate with each other before they eventually die.
Because of this loss of communication, pseudobulbar affect in people with dementia affects the way their brain controls emotions, leading to episodes of uncontrollable and inappropriate crying or laughing.