An Alzheimer’s diagnosis catches most people off guard. If this has happened to someone you love, it’s important to be prepared to understand, cope with and manage some of the changes your loved one may experience.
While there are many behaviors associated with the different stages of Alzheimer’s, the following are some of the most common. Here, we provide an overview of what to expect, and offer suggestions on how to deal effectively with these behaviors as your loved one’s condition progresses. Remember that there is no one-size-fits all solution to managing these behaviors, but these strategies are good ones to have at hand.
4 Common Alzheimer’s Behaviors and How to Manage Them
Alzheimer’s is a brain disorder that slowly inhibits memory and thinking skills. Cognitive decline as a result of Alzheimer’s typically progresses gradually. Eventually a person living with Alzheimer’s may be unable to perform simple tasks or even care for themselves. This can be difficult both for the person who is diagnosed and those who care for them.
Common Behavior 1: Anger and Aggression
People with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia may display aggressive behavior, even if they have never acted aggressively before. Aggressive behavior may be verbal or physical and it can occur suddenly, with no apparent reason.
How to manage this behavior: Physical discomfort, environmental factors and an inability to communicate can all be causes of aggression or anger in someone with Alzheimer’s. The good news is that you can help a loved one manage many of these sources of frustration.
Here’s how you can help calm someone who is showing signs of anger or aggression:
- Try to identify a cause. What happened right before the reaction? Examine the person’s surroundings and determine if you can make any changes to avoid similar situations.
- Don’t get upset. Be positive and reassuring. Speak slowly and softly.
- Shift the focus to another activity. This may help calm the person down.
Common Behavior 2: Anxiety and Agitation
Hand-wringing, pacing and rocking are all signs of anxiety and agitation. These behaviors are often caused by different medical conditions or circumstances. Keep in mind that a person with Alzheimer’s is experiencing a loss of their ability to negotiate information and situations.
How to manage this behavior: There are several different ways you can try to help a loved one calm their feelings of anxiety and agitation. These actions may also help calm you down.
- Create a calm environment free from environmental stressors like clutter or loud noises
- Monitor personal comfort. Check for pain, hunger, thirst, etc.
- Simplify tasks and routines. Break things down into simple steps
- Provide an opportunity for and encourage exercise, as physical movement can help reduce anxiety
Common Behavior 3: Sleep Problems
Sleep issues are another common issue that those with Alzheimer’s encounter at some point in their diagnosis. Sleep is, of course, vital for optimal physical and mental health, and these disruptions can have negative impacts on both the person with Alzheimer’s and their caregiver.
How to manage this behavior: There are several ways to help support better sleep habits for a person with Alzheimer’s. Lifestyle adjustments are often the first step toward better sleep.
Here’s how you can support better sleep habits:
- Maintain regular times for meals and for going to bed and getting up
- Seek morning sunlight exposure, either by spending time outdoors or in a well lit room
- Encourage regular daily exercise, but no later than four hours before bedtime
- Avoid or reduce the intake of alcohol, caffeine and nicotine
Common Behavior 4: Memory Loss and Confusion
Memory loss and confusion in people with Alzheimer’s happens gradually. In the later stages of the disease, a loved one may not remember familiar people, places or things. Situations involving memory loss and confusion require compassion, patience and understanding.
How to manage this behavior: Different levels of memory loss and confusion call for different responses, but there are some universal ways to help someone cope with these behaviors.
- Stay calm even when a loved one has a lapse in memory
- Respond with a brief explanation of how a person or situation is relevant
- Show photos and other keepsakes to remind someone of relationships and places
- Offer corrections as suggestions, but avoid scolding a loved one
Explore Memory Care Resources at Abbey Delray
Taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s or receiving a diagnosis yourself is an intensely emotional experience. At Abbey Delray, a senior living community in Delray Beach, Florida, our team is committed to helping older adults and their loved ones through the good and bad days.
At Abbey Delray, we offer skilled, compassionate memory care services and amenities. We treat each day as a new and exciting adventure. If you’d like to learn more about Abbey Delray’s memory care options in Delray Beach, Florida, then please reach out to us.