November 22, 2011

Below are some common behavior triggers for those with Alzheimer’s and tips to sensitively manage those behaviors.

Trouble communicating. A person with Alzheimer’s may become agitated if he or she cannot figure out what you are saying or can’t find the right words to tell you what he or she wants. The agitated actions call out the emotions that the person is feeling inside. Respond to the emotion that is being communicated rather than the behavior. When giving instructions, break down what you are asking into one simple step at a time.

Unfamiliar Environment. A move to a different care environment, a change of caregivers, or being in an unrecognizable location can cause troubling behaviors. Persons may act nervous and upset—picking at clothes, wringing hands, crying, and making accusations or using repetitive speech. Repetition is thought to convey how the person is seeking security and familiarity. Do not try to reason or correct; rather, listen to what is troubling the person and try to understand his or her reality. A calm listener can have a calming effect on the behavior.

Over-stimulating Environment. Too many people, too much noise, garish colors in the environment, shadowy rooms or excessive clutter can also lead to agitation, hallucinations or aggressive behavior. Stay calm and at an arm’s length if safety is a concern. Provide reassurance and encourage the person to go with you to another place where it is well lit, quiet and calming. Always try to remain visible to the person with Alzheimer’s, and be careful not to approach from a path that isn’t in full view so as to avoid any surprises.

Physical Discomfort. Physical discomfort may come about due to illness, medication side effects or other factors, but the person with Alzheimer’s may not be able to communicate about the discomfort and may try to get the message across through behavior. So, check for pain, hunger, thirst, constipation, full bladder or tiredness. Also check to see if clothes are too tight or too loose. If medication side effects are the suspected cause of discomfort, contact the physician. Urinary tract infections are a particularly problematic issue, so check for that possibility if the change is acute and sudden.

Follow this link for a printable guide on communication and understanding.