Although providing care for an elderly parent or loved one with Alzheimer’s can be rewarding, some days can be more challenging than others. It can be difficult and heartbreaking to watch a loved one become increasingly dependent on others as the disease progresses. Behavioral problems are a common symptom of dementia, particularly in the later stages. The behavior is typically not deliberate but an expression of an unmet need or mistaken perception. We would like to share some tips to help caregivers better manage the behavioral changes that many seniors with Alzheimer’s experience.
- Keep routines simple and consistent. Seniors with Alzheimer’s are not able to adapt to changing environments or routines well. Try to keep things simple, consistent and familiar to reduce confusion. Being able to provide care to your loved one in his or her home where he or she is most comfortable and safe can greatly increase quality of life.
- Use the ABC Method. Record what happens before, after and during problem behaviors and then review your notes after a week to identify common triggers and responses that help lessen the behavior. Once you identify the circumstances that lead to a particular problem behavior, you will want to try to modify them to lessen or stop the behavior.
- Reduce or remove potential stressors. Make tasks more manageable by breaking them down into a series of steps. Loud or unidentifiable noises, large groups of unfamiliar people, shadowy lighting, garish or highly contrasting colors, and patterned wallpaper can create agitation and disorientation so try to avoid them.
- Communicate clearly. Speak slowly, distinctly and in a reassuring tone. Ask simple, yes or no questions rather than open-ended questions. If your loved one doesn’t understand you the first time, try being more specific, avoiding idiomatic expressions and vague pronouns. Try your best to avoid using words and gestures that have previously made your elderly loved one lash out.
- Distract or redirect the behavior. If your loved one becomes particularly agitated or aggressive, distract by engaging him or her in a different task such as folding the laundry or reminiscing—remembering the past is often a soothing and affirming activity. If the behavior would be acceptable in a different context, try to channel the focus to a place or object that won’t be a problem.
- Be patient, kind and loving. Getting anxious or upset in response to problem behaviors can increase stress or agitation in your loved one. Respond to the emotion or need being communicated by the behavior, not the behavior itself. Remember that your loved one cannot reflect on his or her unacceptable behavior so don’t confront or try to discuss it.
For more tips on how to care for a senior with Alzheimer’s or for help with care, contact Home Care Assistance today. We can match your loved one with one of our caregivers who is professionally trained in best practices in dementia care.