Alzheimer’s, dementia and related diagnoses can require significant life adjustments for both the person diagnosed and any family or friends who frequently interact with them. While these changes can be difficult, it is important for everyone to work together to help the person diagnosed maintain a high quality of life throughout the progression of these diseases.
To help you achieve that, here are five strategies for dealing with some of the most common Alzheimer’s behaviors.
Common Behavior Changes Associated with Alzheimer’s
While Alzheimer’s affects all individuals differently and can lead to a range of behaviors, there are some common symptoms. The following list is not exhaustive, but can provide a starting point for understanding common Alzheimer’s behaviors. For more information, The Alzheimer’s Association provides helpful resources for caregivers and their families.
One of the most common behaviors people exhibit after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is repetition. Individuals may repeat single words, specific phrases or physical activities. Often, this can create a stressful or frustrating situation for caregivers, though the repetition usually isn’t harmful on its own.
A person with Alzheimer’s will often need constant supervision for their own safety. This is due to the fact that they may wander away if left unsupervised. For this reason, you may also want to encourage a person with a history of wandering to wear some form of identification bracelet.
Agitation and aggression can often be among the most challenging personality changes to manage when caring for a person with Alzheimer’s. Various triggers such as pain, depression or confusion may result in verbal or physical outbursts, so it is important to understand and reduce triggers that may result in aggressive behavior.
After an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, you may notice your loved one becoming more prone to suspicion and paranoia. They may also hallucinate or see people and objects that are not actually present. One of the most effective ways to deal with this behavior is to redirect the person to focus on another object or topic.
Those with Alzheimer’s may experience sleep problems like restlessness, insomnia and general disorientation. These activities, commonly referred to as sundowning, can increase the burden for those caring for the individual. To manage sundowning, try to encourage good sleep hygiene by creating consistent routines and bedtime cues.
Five Helpful Strategies for Managing Alzheimer’s Behaviors
Here are some strategies to help you manage these common Alzheimer’s behaviors more effectively.
Strategy #1: Be Peaceful, Patient and Positive
One of the best strategies for managing Alzheimer’s behaviors is to remain positive. Your behavior, body language and facial expressions can significantly impact the quality of your interactions with your loved one. They are often looking to you for cues on how to react to situations.
Strategy #2: Communicate with Simple and Straightforward Language
When communicating with your loved one, use simple language whenever possible. Ask questions that can be answered easily, and avoid open-ended or difficult questions which require significant consideration. This can help avoid confusion and frustration.
Strategy #3: Identify and Avoid Triggers
Many Alzheimer’s behaviors, like agitation and paranoia, may be triggered by outside stimuli. These can be physical behaviors like specific activities, words or phrases or even substances like caffeine, sugar or medication. These triggers will differ from one person to the next, so you will need to identify the triggers that most affect your loved one.
Strategy #4: Listen and Empathize
Always remember that your loved one is not choosing to behave in this way. Understand that your loved one’s feelings are valid to them, and do not dismiss or ignore their concerns. Instead, offer comfort and reassurance.
Strategy #5: Understand Your Limits and Don’t Face This Alone
You are not alone when faced with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. In addition to helpful resources like Alzheimer’s.gov, there are also communities like Oak Trace which can help you to manage your loved one’s care and avoid caregiver burnout.
See Oak Trace for Yourself
We invite you to visit Oak Trace in Downers Grove, Illinois to experience our community for yourself. In addition to exceptional memory care services, our community also offers independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and rehabilitation levels of care. If you’re unable to visit in person, we also offer virtual tours on our website to help you visualize what life is like in our community. Contact us for more information.