By: AnithaArockiasamy, President, India Home Health Care Pvt Ltd
When we think of someone with dementia (Alzheimer’s disease being one such syndrome under this umbrella label), we picture a person, with a kind, slightly confused manner who keeps repeating himself. There is a whole range behavior related to Alzheimer’s that we wouldn’t ever describe as being slightly confused or benign by any stretch of the imagination.
An Alzheimer’s patient’s behavior can range from angry outbursts to more physical demonstrations including throwing objects, abusing and attacking friends and family. Understanding and managing an Alzheimer’s patient’s behavior is probably one of the most stressful parts of being a caregiver.
When it comes to dealing with the violent, unruly and incomprehensible behavior displayed by someone with Alzheimer’s, it’s crucial to remember that he is not being difficult on purpose. The individual’s sense of reality is now quite different from yours, but it is still very real to him or her. Since you can’t change the person, you can use strategies to better accommodate problematic behavior. The environment you create at home and the way you communicate can make a world difference in your life as a caregiver.
- Validate the person’s feelings. He is in all likelihood lost the ability to reason. The more you try to reason with the patient, the more agitated he is going to get because he feels like you are not listening to him. Let your loved one know you understand – that you want to help.
- Calm down angry and frustrated patients.Look at him or her directly in the eye, with a reassuring touch or smile to show your compassion. Try not to take problem behavior personally and do your best to maintain your sense of calm.Always speak in a positive tone of voice.
- Don’t contradict. Don’t correct or argue. Look out for opportunities to agree and distract. Always maintain your sense of humor.Wait for your loved one to respond while talking to him or her. Don’t interrupt while they are talking.
- Introduce pleasant and enjoyable stimuli into a fraught situation. Bring in a favorite song, food, drink, photo, texture, scent, collectible and other things that you know he enjoys. All these will evoke positive feelings. It is recommended that caregivers gather these things and keep them ready in a behavior bucket, so these can be produced the moment you need them.
- Control restiveness and random movements. Encourage regular exercise and other physical activities and games.
- Minimise noise levels and confusion – turn off the TV, draw the curtains and ensure a quiet atmosphere, especially when he is in an excitable state.
- If your loved one has a tendency to wander, ensure he or she is wearing an ID bracelet with a GPS chip.
- Limit consumption of caffeine, sugar, junk food during waking hours.
- Use simple words and short sentences. Speak in a calm, gentle and soothing voice.
As the disease progresses, people with Alzheimer’s exhibit behaviors that are unpredictable, uncontrollable and outside the bounds of what is considered “normal” or socially acceptable. Try and remember that this sort of behavior does not define the person. The behavior is a product of the disease.
It is vital to practice patience and forgiveness. Try to let things go and avoid holding grudges over things the patient may not have meant to do, say, or even remember doing. Ensure there is no physically abusive behavior because there’s is the danger of the patient harming himself or the caregiver.Even a one-off occurrence should be communicated immediately to the doctor or the healthcare or mental health provider.
About the Author: Dr. Anitha Arokiasamy has played a vital role in the growth of IHHC-A partner of BAYADA Home Health Care since 2009. She has over 12 years of experience in both clinical and management domains of the healthcare industry. Prior to working with IHHC, she worked as a strategy consultant for the Healthcare Practice of Technopak Advisors.