How to cope with agitation in your loved one who has Alzheimer’s
by: William G. Hammond, J.D. Many times, understanding the meaning of a word can give us great insight into the issue at hand. What is agitation?
Extreme emotional disturbance. (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language)
A stirring up or arousing; disturbance of tranquility; disturbance of mind that shows itself by physical excitement. (Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary).
A mental state of extreme emotional disturbance, the feeling of being agitated; not calm. (WorldNet 1.6).
Many Alzheimers patients experience agitation in addition to memory loss. In the early stages of the illness, people with Alzheimer’s may encounter changes in their personality, such as irritability, anxiety or even depression. But as the disease progresses, these symptoms can worsen and become more difficult to live with.
They may include sleep disturbances, delusions and hallucinations. Many times Alzheimer’s patients cannot get in touch with or express their feelings. So when they experience agitation, it is often difficult for the caregivers to understand and to help.
When a person with dementia displays agitation or other “symptoms,” you must try to determine what they are trying to communicate.
Good communication is an important part of any relationship. When caring for a person with dementia, the ability to communicate becomes more and more difficult.
Both expressing and processing information becomes impaired. This inability to express and process can be frustrating and can manifest itself as agitation.
Following are some suggestions that may allow you to improve your communication with your loved one who has Alzheimer’s:
* Approach from the front to prevent startling him or her.
* Maintain eye contact.
* Lower the tone of your voice. A high pitch may indicate that you are upset.
* Smile and be pleasant.
* Talk with a calm presence.
* Speak slowly, clearly and directly.
* Identify yourself.
* Use short, simple sentences.
* Ask one question at a time.
* Eliminate background noise.
* Give plenty of time to respond.
* If he/she cannot find words, sometimes it helps if you finish the sentence.
* Repeat information when needed – repetition is good.
* Frequently affirm/praise him/her, even for the smallest things, i.e. “Good job,” “Thank you,” “You’re the best!”
* Validate feelings.
* Use touch. Touch the shoulder, knee, back, hand.
* Give hugs many times a day.
* Don’t argue – you’ll never win.
* Laugh together.
* If your talk becomes “heated,” stop. Go back and try again later.
* Don’t talk down. Respect him/her as an adult.
* Don’t’ correct him/her.
* Don’t demand. Ask nicely.
* Don’t take adverse behavior personally.
* Slow down! Hurrying increases frustration.
Another issue in agitation is non-verbal communication. Non-verbal communication is important to be aware of, both in what we are communicating to our loved ones, and what they are communicating to us.
Non-verbal communication is expressed by persons with dementia through body languages, facial expression and tone of voice. At times, the Alzheimer’s patient can look into your eyes and seem to read your soul, almost like a “sixth sense.” They are sensitive and intuitive to people and things around them.
They know when someone is being sincere or not. Body language is as important as their facial expressions. For example, if your loved one suddenly gets up and walks around, that may indicate the need to go the bathroom. Be alert to those signs and give big hugs as much as possible. A gentle touch will make their life much easier and relaxed.
Environment can also cause agitation. Examples would be where temperatures are too cold or too hot, or lights too strong or too dim. Try to set up an environment that is relaxing for your loved one. It will make his or her life easier. And as your loved one with Alzheimer’s relaxes, so will you.
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What is the main cause of Alzheimers?
Alzheimer’s disease is thought to be caused by the abnormal build-up of proteins in and around brain cells. One of the proteins involved is called amyloid, deposits of which form plaques around brain cells. The other protein is called tau, deposits of which form tangles within brain cells.
What exactly is Alzheimers?
Alzheimers disease is the most common type of dementia. It is a progressive disease beginning with mild memory loss and possibly leading to loss of the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to the environment. Alzheimer’s disease involves parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language.
What is the life expectancy of someone with Alzheimers?
On average, a person with Alzheimers lives four to eight years after diagnosis, but can live as long as 20 years, depending on other factors.
What does Alzheimers disease do?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurologic disorder that causes the brain to shrink (atrophy) and brain cells to die. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia — a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills that affects a person’s ability to function independently.
Who is most at risk for Alzheimers?
Age is the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s. It mainly affects people over 65. Above this age, a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease doubles about every five years. One in six people over 80 have dementia – many of them have Alzheimer’s disease.
Is Alzheimer’s preventable?
One in three cases of Alzheimer’s disease worldwide is preventable, according to research from the University of Cambridge. The main risk factors for the disease are a lack of exercise, smoking, depression and poor education, it says.
Is Alzheimer’s inherited from mother or father?
Family history is not necessary for an individual to develop Alzheimer’s. However, research shows that those who have a parent or sibling with Alzheimer’s are more likely to develop the disease than those who do not have a first-degree relative with Alzheimer’s.
How long is Stage 7 Alzheimer’s?
Stage Seven: Very Severe Cognitive Decline
Because people in stage seven often lose psychomotor capabilities, they may be unable to walk or require significant assistance with ambulation. This stage lasts an average of two and a half years.
What is considered early onset Alzheimer’s?
When Alzheimer disease occurs in someone under age 65, it is known as early-onset (or younger-onset) Alzheimer disease. A very small number of people with Alzheimer disease have the early-onset form. Many of them are in their 40s and 50s when the disease takes hold.
Can you test yourself for Alzheimer’s?
The Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE) is an online test that promises to detect the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Developed by researchers at Ohio State University, the test is designed to be done at home and then taken to a physician for a more formal evaluation.
Can a blood test tell if you have Alzheimer’s?
PrecivityAD is the first blood test for Alzheimer’s to be cleared for widespread use and one of a new generation of such assays that could enable early detection of the leading neurodegenerative disease—perhaps decades before the onset of the first symptoms.
What to do if parent has Alzheimer’s?
If a primary care physician diagnosed your parent with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, then you might want to seek the advice of a neurologist. A specialist like a neurologist can conduct a complete assessment, including a brain scan, to confirm your parent’s diagnosis.
How can I treat Alzheimer’s at home?
* Schedule wisely. Establish a daily routine.
* Take your time. Anticipate that tasks may take longer than they used to and schedule more time for them.
* Involve the person.
* Provide choices.
* Provide simple instructions.
* Limit napping.
* Reduce distractions.
What are the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s?
* Difficulty remembering things that just happened.
* Inability to plan or solve problems.
* Losing track of dates, seasons and time.
* Misplacing things.
* Mood and personality changes.
* Poor decision-making.
* Struggling with conversations.
* Trouble completing familiar tasks.