Every 65 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, Alzheimer’s disease affects 5.7 million people in the United States. Startling as the figures are, the scenario takes a turn for the worse: 1 in 3 seniors lose their lives with this progressive disease.
Dementia conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, are degenerative. The condition of a patient suffering from Alzheimer’s increasingly worsens over time. The gradual loss of brain cells causes the downward spiral in dementia patients—and Alzheimer’s has no cure.
Aside from observing memory issues, the families of seniors living with Alzheimer’s may see changes in behavior or the emergence of psychiatric symptoms. Irritability, anxiety and depression are common symptoms that arise early on. As the condition progresses, more severe symptoms may appear, like sleep disturbances or hallucinations. Agitation is also a result of Alzheimer’s and can assume the form of verbal and physical outbursts, pacing, ripping paper or tissue to shreds and overall emotional anguish.
Recognize the Causes of Agitation
The causes of agitation in seniors with Alzheimer’s are numerous. Since the disease affects the brain, cognitive impairment is likely to occur. Patients are less able to complete tasks as they once used to, which leads to frustration and subsequently, outbursts. Families and caregivers must adjust their approach and acknowledge the expected decline in ability.
Physical discomforts, from a rash to fatigue to a headache, also lead to lashing out, especially when the senior is unable to communicate the bodily problem. Caregivers should constantly monitor the senior’s condition to ensure comfort.
Changes in the environment can lead seniors with Alzheimer’s to throw fits or emotionally break down. If the room is cold or excessively warm, extremely noisy or too crowded, a senior with dementia will react, not fully knowing how to process the environmental stimuli or communicate feelings of anxiety, fear or confusion. Plus, changes in caregiving arrangements, houseguests, travel and moving to a new home are environmental triggers for behavioral problems in Alzheimer’s patients.
Experts agree that seniors with dementia may not be able to express feelings, but they will pick up on how a caregiver approaches them. Approaching a senior with Alzheimer’s must be done with care. Caregivers should avoid rushing the senior to perform tasks or shouting orders. Communication should be simple and done gently.
Certain medical conditions contribute to seniors with Alzheimer’s experiencing emotional upheavals. Ear infections, respiratory tract infections, constipation, medication side effects and pain are common causes of behavioral issues.
Soothe the Tension
The first step in appropriately handling agitation in a senior living with Alzheimer’s is to understand that the individual has no intention to be difficult.
Environmental stimuli can also be adjusted to better accommodate the senior. A calm environment can go a long way in helping a senior be at ease. A comfortable room temperature is important, as is turning down a blaring radio or shutting off a glaring television. Keep the environment simple. Place family photos or adored objects around the home to promote a feeling of security in the senior.
Caregivers should constantly monitor a patient with Alzheimer’s, checking for hunger, thirst, a full bladder or constipation.
Another tactic to calm an agitated senior is to pinpoint the cause of the agitation and immediately distract the senior. Distractions can be a snack, a change in activity or directing the senior’s attention to a new object.
When communicating with the senior, use positive statements in a calm manner to reassure the individual. Verbal phrases that inform the senior that she is safe or that let her know you are there to help are invaluable. Letting the senior know she is not alone and that you understand the difficulty of her condition are equally important.
Routines help minimize outbursts. Eating, bathing and dressing at the same times each day help the senior to establish expectations.
Include exercise into the senior’s daily life. Accompany the senior on leisurely walks, join the senior in an afternoon of gardening or dance to soft music.
Plus, caregivers should encourage healthy foods. A limit on the senior’s intake of caffeine, junk food and sugar help to cope with aggression.
A senior’s sense of control in her life is important. Try to make sure the senior feels she has as much control as possible in her daily life.
In between stimulating situations, ensure the senior has ample rest.
Caregivers may also want to visit the senior’s primary care physician when waves of emotional fits disrupt daily life. Certain medications may be prescribed that might alleviate symptoms of aggression. Or, the doctor may be able to identify medication-related side effects that trigger agitation.
Certain actions are not recommended when a senior becomes agitated. Cornering the individual, showing offense, raising your voice, rushing the individual or criticizing the senior are activities that should be avoided. Arguing or confronting the senior is also impractical.
Alzheimer’s Care from Assisting Hands
Seniors living with Alzheimer’s require constant care and attention. Caregivers help keep patients with Alzheimer’s safe and comfortable. Families who are no longer able to provide continual care to a loved one suffering from dementia have the option to turn to a trusted memory care service provider. Assisting Hands Home Care offers a compassionate approach to caring for patients with Alzheimer’s.
Common activities that Assisting Hands Home Care caregivers provide include learning about the senior’s interests and history with the goal to develop a personal relationship and engage in conversation. Mental stimulation is a priority as well. Caregivers play card games, do puzzles and take walks with seniors to keep them engaged. The most valuable skill offered by Assisting Hands Home Care is a show of compassion toward those living with any stage of Alzheimer’s disease.
Assisting Hands Home Care offers reliable, in-home senior care to elderly individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The home care agency’s non-medical memory care is critical to families who lack the ability to provide around the clock care to a loved one with dementia. Initial discussions with the family are held in order to develop customized memory care plans. Assisting Hands is dedicated to the elder populations, serving their needs with kindness and vital attention.