Top Tips for Managing Challenging Alzheimer’s Behaviors
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is an emotional journey for family caregivers. As the disease progresses, challenging Alzheimer’s behaviors can be very difficult for family caregivers to manage. These behaviors can range from screaming and cursing to throwing things and biting, kicking, or pushing others. When these behaviors arise, it is important to remind yourself that it is not personal. The disease progression causes damage to parts of your loved one’s brain and that in turn causes these outbursts.
There is no way to prevent all challenging or aggressive behaviors for loved ones with dementia, but there are some tried and true ways to help minimize these events and increase safety for everyone involved. The following tips from our experts in elderly care in Sunrise, FL and the surrounding areas can help you better manage challenging Alzheimer’s behaviors:
- Maintain a regular daily routine. For people with Alzheimer’s disease, the world becomes an unknown and often scary place as memory and cognitive function decline. A daily routine reduces the stress of the unknown and gives the senior a sense of structure, which can increase feelings of calm and comfort.
- Pay attention to triggers. Sometimes outbursts are triggered by certain events or stimuli. Is the person acting out more during the evening just before bedtime? Do hunger or loud noises tend to bring on aggressive behaviors? Noticing trigger moments can help you plan ahead to prevent a potential event. If hunger is a trigger, perhaps moving lunchtime up an hour to prevent the senior from feeling over hungry will help. If the senior becomes agitated around noise, take them into a quiet room when possible or have an exit plan to ensure they don’t feel overwhelmed.
- Tune into non-verbal communication. We communicate so much without ever using our words. Do you notice your loved one fidgeting or rocking? These small movements may indicate discomfort that could grow into an aggressive outburst. Check in when you notice any non-verbal signs from the senior and see if there is anything they need to feel more at ease. Additionally, it is important to watch your own non-verbal signals. A scrunched up face could read as anger to a confused senior and flailing arm movements might over-excite them. Use calm gestures that clearly indicate what you mean when communicating in order to reduce confusion and agitation.
- Cultivate a calm environment. For someone living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, a calm, peaceful home environment is key. Reduce clutter, turn off loud or unnecessary alarms, keep blinds or curtains closed in the evening to reduce window glare that can cause confusion, etc.
- Remove weapons from the home. While you may feel it is unlikely that a violent incident will happen involving your senior loved one, it is safest for everyone involved to remove any weapons, such as firearms or hunting knives, from the senior’s home. It is also a good idea to lock up any tools or kitchen utensils that the senior could use to harm themself or someone else.
- Have a plan for yourself. Caring for challenging Alzheimer’s behaviors can be frustrating. There may be times when it is best to remove yourself from the situation in order help regulate your own emotions in addition to the senior’s. If the senior is not in any immediate danger and is safe to be left alone for a short period of time, take a quick walk around the block to clear your head and give him or her a moment to calm down. It can also help to have a list of redirection strategies on hand. For example, when you notice a challenging behavior emerging, ask the senior if he or she wants a snack or suggest an activity you know is enjoyable. A change of scenery can help as well. Ask if the senior would like to sit on the back porch and birdwatch.
Caring for a loved one with dementia is an act of true love and devotion, especially when the senior you care for displays challenging dementia behaviors. If you need help in your caregiving duties, the team at Jewish Family Home Care is here for you. Our team of experts in Sunrise respite care and care in the surrounding area offer professional dementia care services that reduce the stress and triggers that can lead to aggressive behavior. We also provide respite care that enables family caregivers to get the rest they need to care for themselves. If you’d like to learn more about how our services can help you and your loved one, contact us online or at 954-908-5677.