Being faced with the possibility that a parent or loved one has developed Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia can be distressing and, at times, surreal. Changes in their brain gradually cause changes in personality and behavior that affect the quality of life of someone you care so much about. As the disease progresses, you’ll need to take steps to help manage their symptoms and provide them with the comfort and care they need.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Before looking at some tips to help you manage your loved one’s symptoms, let’s clarify some common personality and behavior changes you may see:
- Getting upset, worried, and angry more easily
- Acting depressed or not interested in things
- Hiding things or believing other people are hiding things
- Imagining things that aren’t there
- Wandering away from home
- Pacing a lot
- Showing unusual sexual behavior
- Hitting you or other people
- Misunderstanding what they see or hear
Caregivers cannot stop Alzheimer’s-related changes in personality and behavior, but they can learn to cope with them.
Tips for Managing Alzheimer’s and Dementia Symptoms
The National Institute on Aging offers these tips to help you manage the personality and behavior changes in Alzheimer’s and dementia:
- Keep things simple. Ask or say one thing at a time.
- Have a daily routine, so the person knows when certain things will happen.
- Reassure the person that they are safe and that you are there to help.
- Focus on their feelings rather than words. For example, say, “You seem worried.”
- Don’t argue or try to reason with the person.
- Try not to show your frustration or anger. If you get upset, take deep breaths and count to 10. If it’s safe, leave the room for a few minutes.
- Use humor when you can.
- Give people who pace a lot a safe place to walk. Provide comfortable, sturdy shoes. Give them light snacks to eat as they walk so they don’t lose too much weight, and make sure they have enough to drink.
- Try using music, singing, or dancing to distract the person.
- Ask for help. For instance, say, “Let’s set the table” or “I need help folding the clothes.”
Talk with your loved one’s doctor about problems like depression, hallucinations, hitting, or biting. Medications are available to treat some behavioral issues.
For more information on Alzheimer’s and related dementias, visit www.alzheimer’s.gov and www.alz.org.
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