A person with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can experience varying symptoms, including declines in memory, language skills, and thinking and reasoning capabilities. The Alzheimer’s Association says as Alzheimer’s and other dementias progress, behaviors change. The behavioral changes may include, but are not limited to, social withdrawal, depression, anxiety, combativeness, apathy, sleep disturbances, inappropriate actions, wandering and mood changes. These new behaviors can have an impact on caregiving.
There are ways that caregivers can help manage their loved one’s changing behaviors. Here are some suggestions to consider.
- Divert Aggressiveness. The Alzheimer’s Association says if your loved one demonstrates angry behavior, avoid arguing, scolding, finger-pointing or trying to convince him or her of something. Instead, separate your loved one from the cause of the anger by diverting attention to a different activity. Also, try not to take your loved one’s behaviors personally; keep in mind that their actions are a direct result of the disease.
- Create a Calm Bedtime. Make sure your loved one has a comfortable bed. At bedtime, reduce any noise or light and try playing soothing music. Be consistent with the time your loved one goes to sleep at night and gets out of bed each morning. Try increasing physical activity during the day to help promote being ready for sleep at the desired time. Also, pay attention to caffeine and sugar consumption during the day as these can adversely affect feeling tired.
- Promote Exercise. Regular walking, exercises, dancing or other physical activity may have a positive impact on problematic behaviors, such as wandering, aggression and sleeping disorders. If your loved one prefers the indoors, try walking in a shopping mall.
- Encourage Involvement. Try to involve your loved one in various activities each day. Folding laundry or watering plants, for example, can help reduce stress and anxiety. Remember to also encourage activities which provide an opportunity for your loved one to interact with others to help mitigate social withdrawal.
- Embrace Sounds of Music. Music therapy can help soothe someone with Alzheimer’s disease. When your loved one is agitated, play calming music or his or her favorite songs to foster relaxation.
- Interact with Pets. The playful interaction with animals and the gentle petting of their fur can help soothe an individual with Alzheimer’s and decrease aggressive behavior. If you or your loved one does not have a pet, look into organizations that offer pet visits to seniors.
Dealing gently, but decisively with behavioral changes in the ways described above can help improve the quality of life for your loved one and reduce stress on you, the caregiver.