Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive illness that effects different areas of the brain. Challenging behaviors are symptoms of the disease that can be lessened or “treated”. Changes to the brain are to blame for these behaviors; changes in your approach may offer relief.
- First, don’t take challenging and negative behaviors personally! Acknowledge your loved one’s illness and its profound effect on them. They are not trying to “drive you crazy”.
- If you are caregiving at home, try to set and stick to a daily schedule. Do the same things in the same order each day. Structure, consistency and daily rituals decrease stress, anxiety and agitation and provide your loved one with a greater sense of control and ease as they try to cope with their disease.
- Plan some time for rest and relaxation; fatigue is a common culprit in triggering negative behaviors.
- Involve your loved one in the tasks and chores of the day. Feeling overwhelmed or unable to complete simple tasks leads to negative behaviors. Help your loved one be successful in completing daily tasks by simplifying them (breaking them down into steps) to promote independence. While your loved one may not be able to maintain the lawn and gardens independently anymore, they can rake, plant and water with assistance, providing a much needed sense of purpose and accomplishment. They may not be able to do all the laundry independently but can probably fold washed items and set the table for meals daily.
- Avoiding the flare-up of “challenging behaviors” is the best way to prevent them! Make every attempt to prevent frustration, which is often caused by over-stimulation and confusion. Avoid loud noises, distracting background noise (radio/television) and a cluttered environment. Speak slowly and clearly to your loved one. If they become frustrated, change tasks and redirect your attention to something else that you both enjoy.
- Deflect confrontation and try your best not to argue with you loved one. Soften and quiet your own tone to slow down the escalation of negative behaviors once they have started. Use a positive intervention to redirect a negative behavior. Consider what you loved one responds to best: gentle touch, music, dancing, a special food or a funny outburst from you.
Acknowledge that this is a lot to do. Look for and accept support from others to enable your own caregiving. Locate good education and support programs for yourself and find out about professional supportive living care for your loved one, may you need it. And, let me know how it goes!