outpacing in dementia

What does outpacing mean in dementia?

3 min read |
Gemma Clay Sweet Pea Care Webinars

Author 18.07.2022

Gemma Clay

We get asked a lot of questions about dementia and one of the most common is, what does outpacing mean in dementia? 

Outpacing in dementia is when a person with dementia is presented with too much information, and too quickly for them to process.

An individual may begin to feel overwhelmed and unable to answer questions, understand information, make choices and be involved in certain conversations.

In this blog we cover what does outpacing mean in dementia, as well as how it can be avoided.

Here’s a summary of what we’ll cover in this blog:

  • Outpacing is when someone is providing information or choices too quickly for someone with dementia to process.
  • It is a behaviour often borne out of frustration, a lack of awareness or empathy for someone living with dementia and the new challenges and symptoms that they experience.
  • Avoid outpacing by being mindful when communicating with someone who has dementia. 
  • This awareness contributes to a more person-centred approach to care which is empathetic to the challenges faced by those living with dementia.  

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tips for dementia carers (1)

What is outpacing?

Outpacing refers to the speed that information is presented to a person living with dementia. 

Perhaps during a conversation, or passing on instructions.

The individual with dementia can’t keep up or process the info.

Limits interaction

This can cause undue pressure on the person to respond and then limits participation in conversations or interactions. 

For this reason, it is a behaviour that falls under the issue of malignant social psychology.

Malignant social pysychology ‘undermines the personhood and wellbeing of people with dementia’ says psychologist Tom Kitwood. 

when does outpacing happen

When does outpacing happen?

Outpacing can happen in countless everyday situations and is very common.

It is a result of the other speaker not being fully mindful of the changes happening in the brain of someone with dementia. 

Faced with multiple options, it’s easy to become confused, overwhelmed and unable to respond. 

There’s more here on what are the early signs of dementia.

Worried about your loved one?

Early signs of dementia free guide

How to avoid outpacing (1)

What is the effect of outpacing on someone with dementia?

If outpacing is repeatedly a problem, this could be seen as a malignant dementia care practice.

Not only is it unhelpful but also harmful for people with dementia.

Individuals may feel more disabled by their inability to make decisions or process information.

This can cause emotional stress and may in some cases trigger worsening of symptoms, especially when combined with other symptoms such as dementia sundowning.

Worried about your loved one?

Early signs of dementia free guide

caring for someone with dementia

How to avoid outpacing: Tips for carers

Caring for a family member is a challenging task and it is not unusual for tensions to rise to the surface at times. 

Tensions may become exacerbated by dementia-related symptoms which can inhibit a person’s ability to perform simple, everyday tasks or recall information. 

Here are some tips for carers on how to avoid outpacing:

  • Remember to speak slowly and clearly wherever possible
  • Try not to overload the individual with information e.g. ask one question and wait for a response
  • Try to keep sentences as short as possible without too much additional information
  • Allow extra time to accomplish tasks such as dressing or responding to a question
  • Avoid responding with irritation if you do not receive a response quickly
  • Explain what outpacing means to other members of your family and friends

Additional resources

If you found this guide useful then you might like to read our guide on dementia care and our reviews on the best books on dementia

Worried about your loved one?

Early signs of dementia free guide

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Gemma Clay Sweet Pea Care Webinars

Author 18.07.2022

Gemma Clay

Gemma is the Founder and CEO of Sweet Pea Care and has been advising families and care companies for the last decade through Arc Seven Communications.