There are few medical conditions that cause as much worry for family members as a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). It’s a heartbreaking condition because it steals away a lifetime of memories, the identity of loved ones, and even the ability to handle simple daily tasks. In addition to memory loss, AD causes disturbing behavioral symptoms. Knowing what kinds of behavioral symptoms to expect and some ideas for how to deal with them can help you to be better prepared for the progression of the disease.
Common Behavioral Symptoms & Tips to Manage Them
Many people with AD eventually exhibit difficult behavioral symptoms. Below are some of the most common symptoms and some ways you can respond to them.
People with AD sometimes become verbally or physically aggressive. They may unexpectedly lash out at the people around them by yelling or hitting. Sometimes you may be unable to determine what caused the aggression. However, in some cases, it will be brought on by frustration or physical discomfort. To manage the behavior:
- Try to identify the cause of the aggression. Look for a physical cause, such as thirst or needing to use the bathroom. Also, think about what was happening right before the behavior started. Was the older adult having difficulty doing something? Was there something in the environment that set them off, like too much commotion?
- Remain calm and speak in a positive, encouraging way. Focus on the way the senior is feeling instead of the facts of the situation.
- If the outburst was caused by distractions in the area, remove them or take the older adult to a quiet place.
- Get the person interested in something else, like an activity they enjoy and that helps them to relax.
When a person with AD is anxious, they might pace or wring their hands. To manage the symptom, you’ll need to look for ways to calm them. The coping techniques are much the same as those you’d use for agitation, such as:
- Speaking in a calm, quiet, reassuring manner.
- Offering a favorite activity as a distraction.
- Getting rid of anything in the environment that might be causing the feeling.
People with AD sometimes wander away from familiar places and become lost. This behavior is often at the top of a family caregiver’s list of worries since it can be dangerous. It’s impossible to keep your eyes on the elder every moment of the day, so you’ll need to take some steps to prevent wandering. Some ideas are:
- Keep doors and windows locked using locks that are difficult for the senior to open. Try placing locks higher up on the door where the person isn’t as likely to see them.
- Make sure the person always has ID on their person. Although the ID doesn’t stop them from wandering, it can help them to be returned home if they do.
- Fence the yard and use secure gates so that your family member can still go outside for fresh air but won’t be able to leave the yard.
- For some people, being more active during the day can reduce the urge to wander at night.
Having AD can cause an older adult to become suspicious of their family members and caregivers. They may hide things, fearing they’ll be stolen. They may accuse others of stealing or lying. Try these tips to deal with the problem:
- Stay calm and remember that the accusations are not personal. They are a symptom of the disease.
- Don’t argue with the senior. It won’t do any good and it may cause the situation to escalate.
- Keep duplicates on hand of items the person searches for frequently. If the senior often looks for her purse, buy a second one just like it.
Communicating with an Alzheimer’s Patient
The inability to effectively communicate is often a cause of behavioral problems. The person with AD has feelings and needs they cannot express. Some communication tips that can make it easier to talk to someone with AD are:
- Keep things pleasant by paying attention to your own body language and tone. Stay positive and express your affection for the person using your voice, gentle touches, and facial expressions.
- Before you start talking, make sure you have their attention. Turn off the radio or television. Address the person by name and remind them of who you are. Sit or stand to be on their level to maintain eye contact.
- Keep things simple. Speak in short sentences that are easy to understand. Ask questions that can be answered with a yes or no or by making a choice. For example, instead of asking, “Which shirt do you want to wear?” ask “Do you want to wear the yellow shirt or the pink shirt?”
- Pay attention to non-verbal cues and encourage the senior to use gestures to show you what they want.
Elder care can also assist caregivers to manage difficult behavior in their loved ones with AD. Elder care agencies work hard to match their clients with staff members who are experienced in handling their needs. Because AD affects 5.4 million people in the United States, it is a common reason that families hire elder care. An elder care provider can help to keep your family member safe and comfortable at home. Elder care providers can help keep the senior on a familiar schedule, which can help reduce anxiety and aggression.
If you or an aging loved-one are considering hiring Elder Care Services in Glendale AZ, please contact the caring staff at Devoted Guardians today. Affordable In-Home Care in the Phoenix Metro Area. Call Today: (800) 699-4781 or (480) 999-3012.
Aaron spent 5 years working for Intel Corporation in Chandler, Arizona right out of college until he ventured off on his own. Aaron has owned and operated successful small businesses for the past 10 years.
Aaron is currently the CEO and owner of Devoted Guardians a Non-Medical In Homecare Agency covering the entire Phoenix valley. Aaron has been CEO since 2012 and running businesses since 2005.