Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is an incredible challenge. In addition to taking on responsibility for their activities of daily living – dressing, bathing, mealtimes, toileting, and so on – caregivers must contend with the added difficulty of the behavioral changes that often accompany Alzheimer’s. It can be extremely upsetting when someone you love exhibits aggression, confusion, disturbed sleep, or other behavioral issues. Knowing how to respond when these issues do arise – and what you can do to prevent or mitigate them – can help you to manage your own stress level, as well as improve your loved one’s quality of life.
A common behavioral change that occurs in Alzheimer’s patients is increased aggression. Even someone who was previously calm and easy-going can become aggressive or agitated as a result of dementia. Episodes of aggression can come seemingly out of nowhere, with the patient lashing out verbally or physically. However, if your loved one exhibits aggression, it could be because of pain or physical discomfort, hunger, thirst, or disturbances in the environment. Make sure that they have all of their physical needs met and that the environment is soothing, without loud noises, bright lights, lots of activity or unfamiliar people. Also, pay attention to your own tone of voice and body language. Even though people with Alzheimer’s may lose the ability to understand spoken language, they remain highly attuned to non-verbal cues: if you are feeling stressed or irritated, your loved one may become agitated in turn. To help avoid confusion and anger, use simple, easy-to-follow instructions, keep a routine, and make sure that your facial expression and body language convey warmth and calm.
People with Alzheimer’s often experience difficulties sleeping and eating. In order to preserve these crucial functions – and allow yourself to rest and recharge – maintain a consistent routine around sleep and mealtimes. Use soft music, inviting colors, and favorite foods to make eating more appealing. Exercise can stimulate the appetite and encourage sleep. Limit their caffeine and sugar, as well as daytime napping, to help your loved one sleep through the night.
Among the changes that occur with Alzheimer’s, confusion, depression, and hallucinations are common, and can severely impact the patient’s quality of life. Medications can all contribute to these issues, and should be monitored regularly to insure proper dosage and prevent adverse drug interactions. Providing adequate exercise, companionship, and opportunities for meaningful activity, as well as insuring a soothing and calm environment, can all help to mitigate these issues.
If your loved one exhibits wandering behavior, it’s important to make sure that they are safe. Wandering around the house might not be a problem, as long as the patient is kept away from stairwells and other hazards. Make sure to keep doors locked to prevent wandering outdoors. It can be helpful to hide shoes, keys, purses, or other items that the patient habitually brings with them on outings. Appropriate supervised exercise can help to prevent restlessness, and providing distractions, such as music, reading aloud, or looking at pictures, can help to reduce the impulse to wander. In the event that your loved one does go outside, make sure that they wear an ID bracelet at all times, and notify neighbors to be on the lookout.
Edison Home Health Care is happy to provide home health care for you or any loved one. Give us a call at 888-311-1142, or fill out a contact form and we will respond shortly.