Tips For Managing Common Symptoms and Perceived Behavior Problems
As a caregiver for a loved one, it can be extremely worrying to experience the behavior problems associated with mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease. These behaviors include wandering, aggressiveness, hallucinations, or sleeping and eating difficulties. Additionally, any behavior problems worsen in an inadequate environment and the inability to deal with stress. By learning how to make changes in the caring atmosphere, you can increase the quality of life for both the person with Alzheimer’s disease and yourself.
Problem behavior is often a way the Alzheimer’s patient tries to communicate with you. The progression of the disease means that they may no longer be able to communicate verbally. However, they are still emotionally conscious and will remain so, often until the very end of life.
In many cases the patient’s behavior is a reaction to an uncomfortable or stressful environment. If you can identify the stressor or trigger of their discomfort, you can resolve the problem behavior with greater ease. Remember that the person with dementia is not being deliberately difficult. Their sense of reality may be different to yours, but it’s still very real to them.
Some ways to help identify the causes of problem behavior:
- Try to put yourself in the person’s situation. Look at their body language and imagine how they might be feeling and what they might be trying to express.
- Ask yourself what happened just before the problem behavior started? Did something trigger the behavior?
- Are the person’s needs being met?
- Does changing the environment or the atmosphere help to comfort the person?
- How did you react to the behavior? Did your reaction help to soothe the person or did it make the behavior worse?
As a caregiver, you may not be able to control the person you’re caring for. However, if you’re caring for your loved one at home, you can control the environment and the atmosphere you create while caregiving. These factors play a large part in helping a person with Alzheimer’s feel calm and safe.
Modify the environment to reduce potential stressors
- Stressors create agitation and disorientation in the person with Alzheimer’s . These include loud or unidentifiable noises, shadowy lighting, mirrors or other reflecting surfaces, garish or highly contrasting colors, and patterned wallpaper.
Maintain calm within yourself
- Getting anxious or upset in response to problem behavior can increase their stress or agitation. Respond to the emotion being communicated by the behavior, not the behavior itself. Try to remain flexible, patient, and relaxed. Remember, the person is responding to your tone of voice and body language more than the content of what you’re saying. If you find yourself becoming anxious or losing control, take a time out to quickly relieve stress.
Manage stress in someone with Alzheimer’s:
Different stress-reducing techniques work better for some people with Alzheimer’s than others, so you may need to experiment to find the ones that best help your loved one.
- Exercise is one of the best stress-relievers for both the person with Alzheimer’s and you, the caregiver. Regular walking, movement, or seated exercises can have a positive effect on many problem behaviors, such as aggression, wandering, and difficulty sleeping. Indoor shopping malls are vast walking opportunities protected from the weather. Or you may even consider singing and dancing.
Simple activities can be a way for the person to reconnect with their earlier life.
- Someone who used to enjoy cooking, for example, may still gain pleasure from the simple chore of washing vegetables for dinner. Try to involve the person in as many productive daily activities as possible. Folding laundry, watering plants, or going for a drive in the country can all help to manage stress.
- Play a calming song or the person’s favorite type of music as a way to relax them when agitated. Music therapy can also help soothe the person during mealtimes and bath times, making the processes easier for both patient and caregiver.
Interacting with other people is still important
- While large groups of strangers may only increase stress levels for the person with Alzheimer’s, spending time with different people in one-on-one situations can help to increase physical and social activity.
Pets can provide a source of positive, nonverbal communication
- As a result of the playful interaction and gentle touch from a well-trained, docile animal the person is soothed and experience a decrease aggressive behavior.
- The use of Lavender Essential Oil (Lavandula Angustifolia) to calm a person with anxiety has been demonstrated in numerous medical studies to be very effective in decreasing anxiety and improving restlessness.
You will find the most success asking yourself “what matters to the person with Alzheimer’s disease” and not “what is the matter with the person with Alzheimer’s disease.”