How can you react to difficult situations caused by Alzheimer’s?
Hallucinations, delirium, anxiety…do you know how to react to these changes in behavior that are common in a person living with Alzheimer’s?
goal of this article is to help you gain awareness of six of the most common
behavioral issues associated with Alzheimer’s - the ones you are most likely to
come into contact with as the disease progresses. We’ll also show you the best
way to react when confronted with these situations.
1: When they get agitated or worked up
type of behavior generally comes from feelings of anger or frustration rather
than confusion or a desire to communicate a need.
calm at all times. Try to maintain eye contact as you approach them slowly and
steadily. This will help reassure them as you give off calming vibes - “don’t
worry, everything’s ok: I’m here for you”.
Do all you can to avoid confrontation. Don’t scold them or tell them to just
behave themselves. Don’t try to force them to stop what they’re doing by saying
things like “that’s enough of that”.
Try to understand why they are acting like they are. Is their behavior caused
by environmental changes – has someone shown up unexpectedly or were they
startled by noise from the television or radio, for example? Are they in pain
or tired? Are they supposed to take medication soon? If you can find out what
it was that triggered the behavior, it’ll be easier to prevent it from happening
2: When they experience delusions or hallucinations
most common form of hallucinations involves seeing things that aren’t really
there. They can also involve hearing things others can’t hear, or feeling
things that have no real stimulus. Delusions involve persisting in a belief
despite evidence to the contrary (being convinced someone is stealing from them
or that their husband is having an affair, for example).
your loved one is experiencing hallucinations or delusions, the best thing to
do is to take them to a specialist so that they can examine the situation and
decide on an appropriate course of treatment. It is important you do this, as
the hallucinations could be caused by another illness or by an unrelated
physical problem (hearing or sight problems for example). Alternatively, they
could be a side effect of a medication they’re on.
Try not to do anything that could reinforce these delusions or perceptions. Try
instead to provide a reasonable explanation for what’s going on.
If they remain unconvinced, try distracting their attention with an activity
3: When they get anxious or depressed
Alzheimer’s doesn’t make you immune to other mental illnesses. People with
Alzheimer’s can also get sad and depressed. Their depression could have a
physical cause (when the parts of the brain responsible for affective states
are affected by the illness) or a psychological cause (living in unfavorable
circumstances or being aware of how the illness is affecting them for example).
Consult with your doctor. They will be able to assess the situation and decide
whether referring them to a specialist (a psychologist or psychiatrist) would
be a good idea.
Show your loved one the respect they deserve. Don’t downplay what they’re going
through wih patronizing statements like “come on, no-one ever died from feeling
depressed”. Don’t try and pressure them to get better. Avoid saying things like
- “you’re not still moping, are you?”, “you can’t be sad forever” or “come on,
snap out of it”. This often has the opposite effect - causing them to sink
further into their depression.
Look for ways to show your support by being as warm and caring as possible and
praising them whenever they do something well.
4: When they start to wander
it is not uncommon for people with Alzheimer’s to wander. You may find them
aimlessly wandering around the house, turning things over as if they were
looking for something. Some constantly try to leave the house (for no valid
reason) while others take to following their caregivers around wherever they
Inside the house, make sure there’s nothing lying around that could cause
tripping. Secure doors and windows by installing locks.
some of your closest neighbors to the situation so that they can keep an eye
out just in case your loved one does manage to get outside without your
Make sure they wear an identification material (an ID bracelet, for example).
Look into using a tracking device as this will help you keep an eye on where
they are at all times.
5: When they’re constantly losing things
where they put something is extremely common behavior among those with
Alzheimer’s. Some even go as far as accusing family members or friends of
Don’t over-react. Reassure them by saying something like, “don’t worry, these
things happen”. This will help them to keep calm rather than getting overly
worked up, anxious or frustrated.
Try to keep an orderly home, with everything in its place.
You may find labelling places where things should go helpful as it will
encourage them to put things where they can be easily found.
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