Alzheimers and Behavior Treatment
Treatments for Behavior Changes
Treatments for Behavior
One of the most troubling symptoms of Alzheimers disease involves the changes in behavior that this condition brings about. Due to the deterioration of the brain cells in patients, behavioral symptoms are not only common but they tend to get worse as the condition progresses. While there are some behavioral changes that simply cannot be fixed, there are others that can be treated with the right care.
Understanding Behavioral Changes in Alzheimers Patients
Behavioral changes are a common symptom of Alzheimers disease. It is also common for these behavioral changes to worsen or be influenced by your loved ones environment or their medications. Typically the first and most common behavioral changes in individuals with Alzheimers include increased irritability, anxiety and even depression. However, as the disease progresses behavioral changes can become much more severe.
Behavioral changes for those in moderate to severe stage of Alzheimers disease can include significant personality changes as well as side effects such as anger, aggression, emotional distress and more. Other behavioral changes often include:
- Physical and verbal outbursts
- Violent behaviors
- Pacing, restlessness, or stress related behaviors
- Hallucinations and delusions that can cause erratic seeming behavior
- Sleep disturbances that can cause anger, sadness or disconnect
Causes of Behavioral Changes
Many times these behavioral changes simply come from the progression of this illness. However, there are certain changes in a persons surroundings or their environment that can act as a trigger for some of these behavioral changes. Trying to avoid these triggers whenever possible is always smart. However, this is not always possible, so at least being aware of different triggers for behavioral changes can help you and your family be prepared for potential changes.
Keep in mind that many times, any type of change can cause fear and confusion in a person with Alzheimers so you will want to try to avoid change when possible and pinpoint what types of change cause their behavioral issues. Typically situations such as moving to a new residence or nursing home, changes in the environment or the caregiver, admission into a hospital setting or receiving help with daily tasks such as bathing or changing for the first time can all cause behavioral changes.
There are other causes as well that caregivers should be aware of such as:
- Discomfort from infection
- Other medical conditions
- Drug side effects
- Challenges with communication abilities
- Discomfort from a full bladder, constipation or feeling too hot or cold
- Issues with hearing or vision that have gone unnoticed or uncorrected
Treatments for Behavioral Issues
Typically if you are worried that behavioral changes in Alzheimers patients are getting quite severe, you will need to visit a health care provider for a professional evaluation, so they can get to the root of the behavioral changes. There are both drug related treatments and non-drug approaches to treating these changes.
Typically, only in situations where the behavioral changes are causing harm to the patient or to others are them, will drugs be prescribed. Common drugs for behavioral changes include:
- Antidepressants for low mood levels and irritability
- Anxiolytics for anxiety and verbally disruptive behavior
- Antipsychotic medications for hallucinations, delusions and related aggression, agitation or hostility
In other situations non-drug treatments will be tested which will include:
- Pinpointing the cause of the behavioral change
- Accepting that this change is a side effect of the condition, not just the person acting out because they can or because they are meant
- Enacting a change in the persons environment so that they may feel safer and more comfortable and so they are away from their behavioral trigger
- Lessening the amount of activities done in the evening if sundowning is taking place
How to Handle Sudden Behavioral Changes with Alzheimers Patients
Here are a few tips to consider when it comes to handling behavioral changes in Alzheimers patients:
- Always speak to the patient in a calm and soothing voice and reassure them that you are here to make them feel safe and comfortable. Many times, these behavioral changes are a result of a person feeling uncomfortable or threatened.
- Monitor their personal comfort and make certain basic needs such as the amount of food and water they are getting and their ability to use the restroom are being met. You will also want to make sure their room is at a comfortable temperature and they have been checked for infections or skin irritations.
- Never be confrontational or start an argument with a person with Alzheimers disease.
- If a specific situation or trigger is present, attempt to redirect a persons attention.
- Try to eliminate any distractions or over-stimulating background noise that may be causing discomfort.
- Explore different solutions for this behavior until you find someone that provides your loved one with comfort.