Every once in a while I’m approached with the question of “why is she behaving like this?” or “I know he has Alzheimer’s but isn’t that going to eventually change things for the better? He’s always so mean!” Well, in many cases it’s easy to determine when it’s the illness that’s responsible for their behaviors but it’s also true that it can be their personality that’s responsible. I’d love to be able to tell you that there comes a time in the Alzheimer’s journey when they suddenly transition into sweet, compliant, trusting lambs but there’s no such stop on this trip. Although it’s true that one day mom may start drinking tea when she was a coffee drinker all of her life that does not mean, if she was cruel and detached most of her life, she’s now going to become a “Mother of the Year” candidate because she has Alzheimer’s.
Hopefully, no one is going to know your loved one as well as you do and that’s important because you are going to be the first person to notice those changes in personality and behavior. This is important information for you to be sharing with the Primary Care Physician or Memory Care Specialist. Here are some things you may want to be on the lookout for:
-Getting upset or angry for no apparent reason or worrying more.
-Becoming less interested in things and behaving like they’re depressed.
-Hiding things or blaming others for hiding them.
-Wandering away from home.
-Pacing most of the time.
-Hitting you or others.
-Not understanding what they see or hear.
-They refuse to bathe and they wear the same clothes.
It’s important that I remind you once again that if you know someone with Alzheimer’s, you know one person with Alzheimer’s. Don’t make the mistake of looking at this list and thinking that if he doesn’t exhibit all of these issues he’s free and clear. He’s not. In fact, some of these behaviors can be caused by health issues or their environment. A change in their medication, illness or pain they aren’t able to describe to you, a change in their normal routine or a loss of sleep can also contribute to different behaviors. Likewise, if they are in a new environment and/or a noisy environment, that too will result in behavior changes. I once worked with a family whose solution for Mom was to move her every two weeks to a different daughters house (she had four of them) to share the load. Great for the daughters but a disaster for Mom. About the time Mom would feel comfortable, safe and adjusted, it was time to pack up and start all over again.
I use the phrase “Join the Journey” because it’s you and I as caregivers that have to change or Join their Journey; the disease won’t allow them to change. Let me repeat that, the disease will not allow them to change.
So let’s look at some ways to deal with these personality and behavior changes:
-Keep it simple and don’t communicate in lists.
-Maintain a consistent daily routine as they are not fans of change.
-Remind them that they are safe and that you’re there for them.
-Don’t argue or try to reason with them.
-Use humor when you can but not at their expense.
-If they like to walk, make sure that they have a place they can walk.
Clearly, dealing with all of this takes a toll on you and that’s normal. In spite of that, you never want them to see you angry, frustrated or upset with them. Giving yourself a “time out” is perfectly acceptable and appropriate. After all, you need to be the best caregiver you can be for your sake and theirs.
If you have any questions please email me at email@example.com and I’ll answer them directly or in a future article. And remember, Join the Journey.