It’s normal to be concerned when you start seeing behavioral changes in your loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease. It can feel like they are becoming a different person as the disease progresses, and your family member or friend may struggle with memory, communication, and basic daily routines. However, keep in mind that your loved one is still who they’ve always been. The key is getting the proper senior care before these changes get unmanageable. Here are some tips for handling the behavioral changes associated with Alzheimer’s.
The National Institute on Aging reports that some 6 million Americans may have dementia caused by Alzheimer’s, a brain disorder that involves the loss of cognitive functions such as thinking, reasoning, and remembering. Along with that comes certain behavioral changes that, over time, interfere with a person’s activities of daily living.
The severity of Alzheimer’s ranges from mild in the early stages to the most severe stage, when an individual needs round-the-clock senior care. Below are some of the most common changes you can expect to see in a person who has Alzheimer’s disease.
Eating problems are one of the most common changes you will see in a person with Alzheimer’s. The person may start eating less due to forgetting to eat, or it can become difficult for the person to chew and swallow, as dementia affects the area of the brain associated with swallowing. This change in eating habits can lead to malnutrition and weight loss without the proper senior care.
Memory problems are typically among the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease. It may begin as mild cognitive impairment (MCI), whereby a person has some memory problems but these issues do not affect their everyday lives. Over time, MCI can progress to more severe memory loss. The more advanced the disease becomes, the more likely memory loss will become a bigger part of your loved one’s life. It can also be frustrating for both you and your loved one if you don’t address it in a way that helps them maintain their self-esteem.
Anger & Aggression
Behavioral changes like anger and aggression are common in people with Alzheimer’s disease. If your loved one is being aggressive, this can be difficult for family members to handle, especially if he or she has never been like this before.
If your loved one is exhibiting behavioral changes due to Alzheimer’s, the tips below can help both of you understand how best to deal with these issues when they occur.
- Keep track of the medications, dosages, and frequency of administration.
- If you notice a change in behavior, check to see if it is related to medication. If you are unsure or concerned about this possibility, ask your doctor or pharmacist for help.
- Be sure to consult with your doctor before making any changes to medications.
Adapt to their Communication Needs
- Use different communication methods. If your loved one is having trouble speaking, try using visual cues and other methods of communication that don’t require speech. For example, you could use a magnetic whiteboard with letter magnets or a notebook to facilitate communication.
- Incorporate music. Studies show that music may improve behavioral issues, reduce agitation, and even spark childhood memories in people with Alzheimer’s.
- Use art as a tool. Senior care that includes art projects encourages a sense of accomplishment and self-expression for people with Alzheimer’s. Keep the materials safe, non-toxic, and on an adult level, and use the project as a conversational tool with your loved one.
It can be hard to be patient when your loved one is showing memory loss, is slow to complete daily activities, or becomes aggressive or angry. When you are feeling frustrated, try to keep in mind that these feelings don’t help the situation, and they might make things worse. It’s best to avoid arguing with your loved one; instead, take a few deep breaths, don’t take it personally, and give yourself time to calm down before you speak again.
Practice Your Own Self-Care Routine
As the caregiver of someone with Alzheimer’s, you may find that your own health and well-being are suffering. You may be depressed or anxious about the future, and this can affect how you interact with your loved one. In order to ensure that both you and your loved one receive proper care, it’s important to practice self-care routines. This includes eating healthy meals, getting proper sleep, taking breaks from senior care for your loved one, and spending time doing activities you enjoy like walking in nature or spending time with friends.
Know Your Limits
Remember that it is OK to ask for help, and it’s important to do so when you need it. You may find that some tasks are just too difficult or exhausting for you at this time. Don’t feel guilty about asking others for help or enlisting professional senior care with things like cooking, bathing, dressing, and engaging with your loved one. Knowing your limits lets you get help when you need it most, especially as Alzheimer’s progresses.
Let the Experts at Bluebird Help Your Loved One
At Bluebird Homecare, our certified, highly trained dementia and Alzheimer’s in-home caregivers can be your in-home care team. We provide the high-quality care your loved needs while keeping families and friends connected throughout the process. With locations in Atlanta, Birmingham, Charlotte, Fort Worth, Louisville, Nashville, and St. Louis, we can develop a customized care plan that ensures you and your loved one get the support you need.
Whether your loved one needs a ride to the doctor’s office, help with daily chores, or a more extensive care plan, our team of certified homecare specialists will design a flexible plan that suits everyone’s needs — and adjust that plan as needs evolve.