Managing Behavior Changes in Alzheimer’s

August 25, 2023

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects the brain. This leads to cognitive decline and memory loss. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia. In many cases, the disease primarily affects older adults, and the prevalence increases with age. Early detection allows for better management of the condition and access to available resources and support services. 

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease usually develop slowly and worsen over time. Early signs: mild forgetfulness and difficulty in recalling recent events or conversations. Delayed detection: severe memory loss, disorientation, confusion, and difficulties with language and problem-solving. Caregiving will become essential for those with Alzheimer’s as the disease progresses.  

What’s the cause? 

The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not fully understood, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Abnormal protein deposits in the brain, such as amyloid plaques and tau tangles, are characteristic features of the disease and are thought to contribute to nerve cell damage and death. As there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are treatments available that can help manage symptoms and improve the individual’s quality of life. These treatments may include medications that temporarily improve cognitive function and behavioral symptoms. Many clinical trials have and are being performed for these specific medications. Research into Alzheimer’s disease is ongoing, and there is hope that future advancements may lead to better understanding, prevention, and treatment options for this devastating condition. 

Improving the quality of life 

Managing behavior changes in Alzheimer’s disease can be challenging but is crucial for improving the quality of life for both the person with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Try to identify triggers that may be causing the behavior changes. Addressing these underlying issues can often reduce the intensity and frequency of challenging behaviors. 

  • Pain 
  • Discomfort 
  • Hunger 
  • Thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Unfamiliar environments
  • Overstimulation

A predictable daily routine can provide a sense of security and stability for individuals with Alzheimer’s. Maintaining a consistent schedule for daily activities, meals, and rest can help reduce confusion and anxiety, as the individual will know what to expect. Minimize noise, distractions, and clutter in the living environment to create a calm and soothing space to reduce agitation and confusion. Use simple language, speak slowly, and maintain eye contact when communicating. Validate their feelings and redirect their attention if they become agitated or confused. Regular physical activity such as walking, or chair exercises can help reduce restlessness and anxiety. Encouraging activities that the person enjoys, to a safe extent, will aid in the individual’s mental health. 

Every individual with Alzheimer’s is unique, therefore it may take some trial and error to find the most effective strategies for managing their behavior changes. Having patience, empathy, and understanding are essential for providing the best care possible. It is important for individuals who suspect they or their loved ones may be experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease to seek medical evaluation and early diagnosis. If your loved one has already been diagnosed, BTC of New Bedford has a clinical trial for those who are struggling with this disease.