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Common Causes and Supportive Responses for Alzheimer’s-Related Behaviors

If your loved one has Alzheimer’s and you are the caregiver, it can be worrisome and difficult to understand how to handle some of the different behavioral problems. The issues often stem from your loved one being unable to clearly communicate or express feelings through words. Knowing how to successfully handle the different situations can help improve the caregiving for both you and your loved one. Here are some suggestions and examples on how to best handle issues stemming from Alzheimer’s-related behaviors.

To Begin:

  • Identify the cause of the behavior or “trigger.” Questions to think about are:

  • What happened just before the behavior started?

  • Where did the behavior happen?

  • What happened right after the behavior?

  • React calmly and reassuringly.

  • Modify the environment or caregiving to reduce potential stressors that can create agitation and disorientation.

Causes of Challenging Behaviors:

  • Trouble Communicating Clearly

  • Effect: A person with Alzheimer’s may become agitated if she cannot figure out what you are trying to tell her to do or can’t find the right words to tell you what she wants. What you see are actions that act out the emotions that person is feeling. Also, the person with Alzheimer’s may use incorrect words for an object or may say repeatedly that she needs to go home, even if she is home. To her, “home” may not really be a place, but represents the feeling of safety.

  • Response: Respond to the emotion that is being communicated rather than the behavior. When giving instructions, break down what you are asking into one simple step at a time.

  • Agitated Caregiver

  • Effect: Getting anxious or upset at your loved one in response to a problem behavior can increase the level of stress or agitation in a person with Alzheimer’s.

  • Response: 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.

  • Frustration with Tasks

  • Effect: When trying to accomplish a task or chore that has multiple steps or seems complicated to the person with Alzheimer’s, strong reactions can occur.

  • Response: Stay calm and be patient. Repeat instructions one step at a time. Say statements such as, “Do as much as you can and I will help you.” If trouble continues, do not persist in making the person perform the task, but rather move on to a different activity.

Once the challenging behavior has passed, make sure to keep a record of the behavior, your own response, and note if you or anything else should do or be done differently next time. This will help make your caregiving more manageable and the living environment healthier for your loved one.

AAging Better's caregivers are well trained in caring for dementia-related behavior in our clients. If you need a break from caring for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimers, please call us for a free in-home assessment to talk about your needs and the needs of your loved one. We offer a variety of in-home care services that are well suited to fit your and your loved one’s needs. Contact us today to learn more about our Alzheimer’s and dementia care services.

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