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How to Approach Behavioral Changes in Alzheimer’s Late Stages


When someone you love has Alzheimer’s disease, there are many challenges to contend with. Loss of independence and memory and increasing reliance on caregivers, greater difficulty performing everyday tasks, limited mobility, and a change in living circumstances can all be very difficult. In addition to these aspects of Alzheimer’s disease – and often related to them – are behaviors exhibited by patients that can compromise quality of life, and pose challenges for caregivers. Understanding the source of these behaviors and responding to them appropriately can help make the work of care giving easier, and increase your loved one’s comfort and well-being.

Some of the most common behavioral and cognitive changes associated with Alzheimer’s include aggression, agitation, depression, confusion, suspicion, hallucinations, repetitive behaviors, wandering, and sleep problems. As a caregiver, it’s important to understand that, although you may not be able to pinpoint the exact source of these behaviors, they do have a cause – that has nothing to do with you! In order to provide compassionate care, and avoid burnout, it’s essential to avoid taking behaviors personally. Although it can be very difficult not to take it personally when someone you love lashes out in anger or exhibits suspicion towards you, it’s important to remember that the disease has compromised their rational abilities. Keeping in mind that unpleasant and challenging behaviors originate not with something you have done wrong, but are simply a part of the disease, can help you to remain calm and centered and avoid losing your temper.

When you’re trying to address changes in behavior such as aggression, sleeplessness, or wandering, it’s important to look for underlying clues. While some behaviors have no clear source, much of the time, there is an environmental or physical trigger. Lashing out physically or verbally, for example, can indicate that the person is in pain. An over-stimulating environment with loud noises or unfamiliar people can contribute to agitation; conversely, boredom or a lack of exercise can cause restlessness and wandering. If your loved one is exhibiting challenging behaviors, try creating a more comfortable environment for them, providing opportunities to engage in meaningful activities, or changing your communication style by speaking slower and using words and gestures that are easier to understand. Above all, it’s important to remain calm and patient. Don’t try to persuade your loved one of anything or control them: rather, accept that behavioral changes are an inevitable part of Alzheimer’s, and deal with them as they arise.

Edison Home Health Care is happy to advise and assist you or any loved one who seek appropriate care of Alzheimer’s disease. Give us a call at 888-311-1142, or fill out a contact form and we will respond shortly.

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