Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic illness that not only affects your loved one’s memory, but can change their behavior as well.
You may hear your loved one say repeatedly, “I want to go home.”
Unfortunately the disease can turn a simple desire like this into an aggressive attack (verbally or physically).
Here is what you will learn today:
- Difficult behaviors you may come across in your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease
- Simple tips you can use right away to see immediate results
Knowing how to respond and handle stressful situations can help prevent caregiver burnout.
Learn more about these Alzheimer’s disease tips you can use right now for difficult behavior by reading on!
1. Using Misdirection for Reducing Your Loved One’s Stress
By learning how to redirect your loved one’s attention, you’re well on your way of becoming a full fledged magician! Just kidding, but it can greatly improve your day to day interactions with your loved one.
Magicians are masters of misdirection—they know how to redirect your attention away from the magic trick and create a deceptive illusion for their audience.
Difficult behavior such as asking repetitive questions and wanting to go home (when your loved one is already home) usually stems from stress, anxiety, frustration, or fear.
How can you apply misdirection techniques for difficult behavior in Alzheimer’s disease?
Certain cues and signals can be used to direct your loved one’s attention towards another topic.
Consider the following scenario:
Jerry is being chased by Tom. He makes a harrowing escape from the clutches of his sharp feline claws and sprints down the nearest hallway. However, he ends up getting cornered and has nowhere else to run.
Tom is slowly making his way towards him and laughs menacingly as he gets closer. Jerry is anxiously awaiting the impending doom and sweat starts to stream down his forehead.
He sees Tom showing off his wide pointy grin and winding up his hind legs to pounce at any moment.
“Stop!” Jerry exclaims with a shocked look.
Confused by the sudden interjection, Tom hesitates in his attack.
“Spike is right behind you,” says Jerry while pointing down the opposite end of the hallway.
Tom jumps up and screams as he is deathly afraid of dogs—his mortal enemy. He turns around to see that there’s no one there. Instead, Tom notices Jerry making a run for it underneath his legs.
Did you know that cartoon characters are really great at misdirection?
Jerry used physical misdirection to redirect Tom’s attention in another direction and towards a different subject (Spike).
Consider this example to see how you can apply this technique to persons with Alzheimer’s right now:
Your loved one keeps pleading with you to go home when they’re already home. This could be a sign of discomfort. Try responding calmly with a relaxed tone in your voice and be mindful of your body language. Avoid lengthy explanations and keep your answers brief—using long worded logic to reason with someone that has Alzheimer’s disease, will only make them more frustrated.
You agree with their wish to go home and say, “Okay, we’ll be leaving soon. Let’s get your jacket so you won’t be cold outside.”
Afterwards, you can switch gears by pointing out to something you see or getting them involved in an activity they enjoy. For example, on the way to getting the jacket – point at the kitchen, “oh let’s have some delicious fruit for a snack.”
Alternatively, keep your voice and demeanor pleasant is highly effective— if your loved one is asking to go home, talk about their home and ask about it “you lived there a long time, right?” “that’s where you raised your kids, right?” Try to circle back to questions and topics that you know bring up positive memories for your loved one. This technique can help give them comfort and direct them away from their original anxiety that spurred the sudden need to “go home!”
Learn more about Sundowners Syndrome, which can explain why sundown is often a difficult time of day for persons with Alzheimer’s.
2. Proactive Measures You Can Take for Wandering
A common symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is wandering. Persons with Alzheimer’s may try and leave their home which can be a huge risk to their
safety. However, there are proactive measures you can take right now to prevent wandering.
Your loved one can wear a small tracking device around their wrist or ankle. If they go missing, a signal is emitted from the tracker, notifies their local Project Lifesaver agency, and then a team of trained emergency responders searches the wanderer’s area. Most of those who go missing are found within a couple miles from home and the average recovery time is 30 minutes.
You can contact your local agency for enrollment pricing information.
Home Monitoring Device
New technologies such as home monitoring devices that connect to your wireless network allows you to be vigilant—without being intrusive. You can keep an eye out on your loved one with these products that can stream live footage straight to your smartphone.
Here are some companies that offer products with a video streaming feature:
Many of these also have motion sensors available. This is helpful in preventing your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease from sporadically leaving their home. You can set a notification to go off on your smartphone whenever the device captures movement.
Another proactive measure you can take for wandering is to install a wander alarm. There is a sound that rings to notify occupants whenever a door is opened. If your loved one is living with you, this can give you the precious amount of time needed to prevent them from wandering.
Wander alarms are also beneficial to the caregiver who provides home care to your loved one.
You can visit these online stores below to learn more:
3. Creating a Calm Environment for Your Loved One Can Manage Aggression
Maintaining a calm environment for your loved one is essential for managing their difficult behavior—especially if they exhibit angry outbursts and aggression towards you or their caregiver.
Here are two things you can do right now:
- Take a look around your loved one’s home. Is there anything that can cause them to be disoriented or agitated? Check to see if there is something that may be distractive—mirrors, reflective surfaces, patterned wallpaper, brightly colored objects, etc. You also want to check for things that can cause loud or unidentifiable noises.
- Are you about to react impulsively to your loved one’s difficult behavior by being upset or yelling back at them? Instead, you will want to maintain your composure and respond to the emotion your loved one is conveying rather than the actual behavior itself. A negative response can increase their stress or agitation.
Another important thing to keep in mind when dealing with difficult behavior is to always try and put yourself in your loved one’s shoes:
- What kind of emotions are your loved one displaying when they are acting out?
- What thought are they trying to express?
- Did something happen that triggered their difficult behavior? What is it?
Try to re-assure them “Mom, I know the sound of the gardener is frustrating, I understand, it will be over soon I promise.”
Practice makes perfect so don’t worry if you’re having trouble with getting these techniques down. It will take some time adjusting to how your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease reacts to certain situations and environments.
Does Your Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease Need Help?
Senior Home Care Services has specially trained caregivers with years of experience in caring for Alzheimer’s disease patients. Learn more about our premier Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care here.