Behavioral Alzheimer’s symptoms are often the most distressing part of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s at home. Inappropriate behaviors make communication difficult and place great emotional stress on the caregiver.
Families who are educated about Alzheimer’s disease have a much better understanding of how to care for and interact with an Alzheimer’s patient. According to the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, improved care and communication can help to reduce problematic behavioral Alzheimer’s symptoms.
Behavioral Alzheimer’s Symptoms: What to expect
Alzheimer’s affects an individual’s behavior, mood and personality. Behavioral Alzheimer’s symptoms are the direct result of the disease, but are also partly the result of frustration over declining abilities.
For example, the patient may be unable to remember the words and concepts she needs to speech coherently. She may also have difficulty understanding you when you speak to her. As a result, she can become very frustrated, exhibiting disturbing behaviors such as kicking, screaming and swearing.
Other behavioral Alzheimer’s symptoms may include:
- Abrupt mood swings
- Angry outbursts
- Hiding possessions
- Loss of interest in social activities and hobbies
Behavioral Alzheimer’s symptoms may become worse as the day wears on. This is a phenomenon known as “sundowning.”
Information for Caregivers: Reducing Behavioral Alzheimer’s Symptoms
New environments or stressful situations can aggravate behavioral Alzheimer’s symptoms. People with Alzheimer’s can be easily upset by large crowds and a lot of noise, which is why holidays can be an especially difficult time when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s at home.
You can help to minimize behavioral symptoms by creating a quiet environment and establishing a familiar routine. Even during holidays, experts suggest that you try to stick to a routine as much as possible. Watch the patient closely and remove him to a quiet area of the house if you see the excitement is too much for him.
Information for Caregivers: Communication Techniques
Effective communication between you and your loved one may help to reduce behavioral Alzheimer’s symptoms. Consider the following communication strategies:
- Be patient.
- Don’t contradict or argue with what your loved one says.
- Speak slowly and clearly.
- Show interest in what your loved one is doing or saying.
- Try to anticipate the patient’s needs before he tries to meet the need on his own.
- Use gestures and visual aids to help get your meaning across.
- Use short, simple sentences.
Alzheimer’s disease slowly erodes an Alzheimer patient’s memories, beginning with the most recent memories. As a result, the person may be reliving a time in the past. Successful communication involves interacting within the patient’s perception of reality. Communication becomes far less stressful when you accept the person’s reality and engage in it by asking questions and listening to the responses.
Alzheimer’s Association. (n.d.). Behaviors. Retrieved June 25, 2010, from http://www.alz.org/living_with_alzheimers_behaviors.asp.
Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. (n.d.). Communicating with someone who has Alzheimer’s. Retrieved June 25, 2010, from http://www.alzinfo.org/alzheimers-treatment-communicating.asp.
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2010). Alzheimer’s: Tips for effective communication. Retrieved June 25, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers/AZ00004.