How to Deal with Difficult Behaviors Associated with Alzheimer’s and Dementia

frustration due to alzheimersCaring for a loved one who is living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia can be a difficult and challenging emotional journey. Often times these diseases can cause a person to exhibit challenging behavior including verbal and physical outbursts or inappropriate habits. These behaviors can be uncomfortable and embarrassing for you and even harmful to the person or those around them. They can also be one of the most difficult aspects of being a family caregiver to someone living with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

To help you understand some ways that help mitigate these challenging behaviors and prevent them in the future, we’ve put together some tips:

In the Moment

When your family member is acting out, it is most important that you remain calm, collected, and do not get angry. While you may be feeling anything but calm and collected, try to keep a respectful tone and refocus your loved one’s attention on a new activity. If you or your loved one are too upset to be refocused, consider removing yourselves from the situation.

A good way to remain calm is to put yourself in their shoes and try to understand the ‘why’ in their action. For example, if your mother is removing her clothes in public, she may be feeling too hot or that her clothes are too constricting. Keep in mind that she is not doing this to be deliberately embarrassing to you.

For the Future

During the later stages of Alzheimer’s, your family member may exhibit an increase in agitation and aggression. Usually, these behaviors are experienced when they become overstimulated. Some examples might be in a crowded public space, during showering/bathing, or during another stressful situation. As the disease progresses and communication becomes more difficult for a person, frustration manifests in a physical way.

It’s important once you’ve handled a difficult behavior to analyze the situation objectively to determine what caused it and what can be done to prevent it from reoccurring in the future. For example, if your father becomes agitated while dining at a crowded restaurant, consider how you can prevent it from happening next time. Maybe you choose to dine at a different hour when the restaurant is less crowded or you choose a quieter restaurant next time.

Treatment Options

These difficult behaviors are often a physical manifestation of stress and anxiety. According to studies up to 40% of people living with Alzheimer’s also deal with high levels of anxiety and depression. Luckily, these symptoms can be decreased by finding an optimal treatment. One treatment option is medication. If your loved one’s symptoms are extreme, antidepressants and antianxiety medication may be helpful. While unfortunately there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, it’s possible to significantly reduce symptoms with the proper dosage.

Mild stress, anxiety, and depression can also be reduced with regular exercise, proper stimulation, and a balanced diet. A healthy lifestyle can extend a person’s life expectancy and give them a better quality of life in the long run.

Finally, make sure to create calming environments for when environmental stimulations become too much. Consider creating a quiet and dark room that they can calm down and relax in. Additionally, look into aromatherapy treatments. An oil diffuser with lavender oil can go a long way in reducing a person’s stress.

Woodland Ridge Assisted Living is here to assist family caregivers and seniors during their Alzheimer’s journey. Contact us today to see how we can help.