Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can be challenging for those affected, as well as their caregivers. This diagnosis is progressive, and makes it more difficult for those diagnosed to think clearly, communicate and remember people, places and events. Changes in the brain due to dementia can also cause mood swings, sleeping disturbances and other behaviors that can become increasingly challenging to manage as they progress. This poses numerous emotional, physical and financial challenges for caregivers as well.
Memory Loss and Confusion
Memory loss and confusion are the behaviors people most commonly associate with Alzheimer’s. This can begin simply, with an inability to remember recent conversations or actions, but often progresses to being unable to remember people, places and even how to care for oneself.
Tips for How to Manage Memory Loss and Confusion
- Encourage your loved one to stay as active as possible. Exercise, including physical therapy, has been shown to slow memory loss and improve cognition.
- Prompt your loved one’s memory by regularly going through photos of people and places that are important to them.
- Most importantly, stay calm and speak in an even and soothing tone of voice. Your loved one is not being willfully difficult. They are struggling, too.
Anger and Aggression
Acting out angrily or aggressively can be a sign that your loved one’s condition is progressing further, as they are unable to articulate their needs. This can be caused by experiencing physical discomfort, such as hunger or a need to use the bathroom. It may be due to an environmental trigger, such as loud music, or they could have picked up on the stress and anxiety of the household or a difficult situation.
Tips for How to Manage Anger and Aggression
- First, try to identify what triggered the outburst. What occurred immediately before they began to act this way? If you can identify the trigger, you may be able to remove it in the future.
- Check to see if your loved one is in pain. They could be in an uncomfortable position or experiencing physical issues such as an upset stomach, acid reflux or other malady.
- Stay positive as you seek out the cause of this behavior. As frustrating as it is for you, your loved one’s feelings are valid and should be acknowledged.
Sleeping disturbances often begin due to physical and mental exhaustion combined with an unfamiliar environment or routine. Alzheimer’s also affects the body’s natural internal clock, which can cause your loved one to become confused about the time of day. As daylight fades, the increase in shadows in the home can also cause disorientation that leads to disturbed sleep.
How to Manage Sleeping Disturbances
- Establish a regular daily routine with your loved one. Try to keep their sleep and waking times the same, and avoid letting them sleep during the middle of the day.
- Enjoying regular outdoor exercise can also help your loved one establish the time of day, with the added benefits that movement brings.
- Schedule activities such as doctor’s appointments or outings in the early morning or afternoon, and avoid stimulating activities or disturbances in the evening hours.
- Create a soothing evening routine that focuses on calming pursuits, like putting together a puzzle or doing a craft project together.
One of the most dangerous behaviors that those with Alzheimer’s and dementia commonly exhibit is wandering. Your loved one may start to wander because they have a need that they cannot express, and in searching to fulfill it, lose the ability to make sense of their surroundings. They may get up and use the stove in the middle of the night or try and take the car out to run an errand then forget where they were going.
How to Manage Wandering
- When it is no longer safe for your loved one to drive, store vehicle keys in a secure place that they do not have access to.
- Never leave them alone unsupervised in a new place, especially one that is overwhelming, like a shopping mall or outdoor festival.
- Consider giving your loved one a medical ID bracelet or lanyard with your contact information that explains their condition. This will be useful if a neighbor or law enforcement officer encounters them as they wander.
Hallucinations and Paranoia
When our brains become damaged through injury or an illness like Alzheimer’s, it can cause hallucinations and paranoia.
Your loved one may also begin to experience paranoia, also linked to confusion. They may accuse a caretaker of theft or improper behavior which has not occurred, which can be distressing. Hallucinations and paranoia can also be frightening, but there are ways to manage this behavior.
How to Manage Hallucinations and Paranoia
- Speak with your loved one’s doctor to go over their prescription medications. Some types of prescription drugs can cause hallucinations or paranoia.
- If your loved one insists they have seen or heard something that isn’t there, try to avoid arguing with them and instead distract them by engaging them in another activity.
- Avoid putting on upsetting or violent television programs, which can exacerbate your loved one’s condition.
- Offer comfort and reassurance to your loved one in a calm, soothing and reassuring tone.
Avoid Caregiver Burnout
As your loved one’s condition progresses, it can be increasingly difficult to give them the care that they need without negatively impacting your own health. Being a caregiver can be very rewarding, but it does take its toll.
Here are some ways to cope with caregiver burnout:
- Attend a local support group for caregivers. This can be a great way to connect with others facing similar challenges and share resources.
- Ask for help. Family, friends and neighbors are often happy to help, but aren’t sure what assistance may be needed. Reach out to them.
- Consider hiring an in-home health aide, even if only part-time. This can give you a much needed afternoon off, or help split the daily responsibilities of care.
- Look for residential respite care or memory care services from a community like The Stayton
If you don’t know if now is the right time to transition your loved one to a memory care community, consider these factors.
Explore Memory Care Options at The Stayton
Whether you are a caregiver of someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia in the Fort Worth area, the team at The Stayton at Museum Way is always available to speak with you about your options. We offer a 24-hour supervised environment and expert, personalized wellness programs that keep your loved one engaged.
Contact us to start the conversation about your loved one’s care, and how we can help.