The Responses You Need for Challenging Alzheimer’s Disease Behaviors
Alzheimer’s disease often presents complex issues for both the person diagnosed and his or her loved ones. As the disease progresses, those with Alzheimer’s tend to increasingly express their needs through behaviors instead of language, and these behaviors can often be inappropriate in nature. For instance, seniors with more advanced Alzheimer’s disease may display the following:
- Agitation and aggression
- Inappropriate sexual behavior such as:
- Taking off clothing or touching themselves in public
- Using obscene language
- Accusations that a spouse is having an affair
Behaviors such as these can be embarrassing and troubling for Alzheimer’s caregivers, but they can also be extremely confusing and frustrating for the person with Alzheimer’s, who most likely cannot understand why the behavior is inappropriate or upsetting to others.
As an Alzheimer’s caregiver, it’s essential to keep in mind that any difficult behaviors the senior displays are the result of the disease — or perhaps other health issues or medications – and not a reflection of the senior’s character. And, sometimes what seems like sexually inappropriate behavior is really an expression of a non-sexual need, such as the need to use the restroom or a need for closeness.
If you’re unable to figure out the reason for your loved one’s behavior, try these responses:
- Redirect the older adult to a favorite pastime or activity such as listening to his or her favorite music or looking through family photos.
- Calmly, but immediately, locate a private area like a restroom or changing area if your loved one begins to undress in public.
- Respond to feelings of loneliness or a desire for closeness with a comforting pat or a hug and calming conversation.
- Try increasing the amount of physical activity and exercise the senior gets.
- Consider practical ideas; for inappropriate undressing, purchase clothes designed with fasteners in the back for this particular reason.
When responding to difficult behaviors:
- Respond calmly and matter-of-factly. Do not argue with or embarrass the person, as this can exacerbate the situation; try to remain gentle and patient.
- Avoid overreacting. Offering too much affection can encourage unwanted sexual behaviors, while raising your voice or shaming may scare or confuse the senior.
- Find a solution. Try a new setting that does not allow for the behavior to be a cause of concern, or a new activity that distracts from the behavior altogether.
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