Alzheimer’s-Related Behaviors: How to be Supportive

November 8th, 2011

The middle to later stages of Alzheimer’s disease bring about some frustrating and often challenging behaviors. It is important to realize that the behaviors expressed are just a way persons with Alzheimer’s communicate feelings that they can no longer express through words. It is important to identify the cause of a challenging behavior in order to understand what the person is trying to express. Some causes of challenging behaviors can include:

Trouble communicating clearly: A person with Alzheimer’s may become agitated if he or she cannot understand what you are trying to say or can’t find the right words to express himself or herself. Always remember to respond to the emotion that is being communicated rather than the behavior. Break down any instructions into simple steps, preferably one step at a time.

Overstimulation: Too much noise, crowds of people, even garish colors can agitate Alzheimer’s patients. Stay calm and provide reassurance. Encourage the person to come with you to another room where it is quiet and calming. Fear and worry are usually behind these behaviors, so be sensitive to reactions.

Frustration with tasks: Multiple-step tasks or chores can bring about strong reactions of frustration in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Caregivers should remain calm and patient, repeating one instruction at a time. Be encouraging, but if trouble continues, do not persist with the task.

An agitated caregiver: Responding to problem behaviors by getting anxious or upset will increase stress and agitation in the Alzheimer’s patient. Try to remain flexible, patient, and relaxed, and remember that the person is responding to your tone and your body language more than the actual content of what you are saying.

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is challenging, but it can also be very rewarding. Just remember to remain as patient and as calm as possible, and seek help from home care professionals when you need it. For more information about how in-home care can benefit Alzheimer’s patients, contact Visiting Angels in Alameda County at (510) 284-0000 or in Santa Clara County at (408) 735-0977. We’ll be happy to answer all of your in-home care questions.