More About Behaviors…

By Robert Elmer III on June 11, 2017 in Uncategorized
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One of the most important things for any caregiver of a loved one with Alzheimer’s to remember is that they are dealing with a unique individual. Yes, they do display behaviors that they share with others but I’m constantly reminding people that “if you know one person with Alzheimer’s you know one person with Alzheimer’s.”
The most common denominator that everyone is familiar with is the loss of their short term memory. As you progress as a caregiver and learn more you’ll discover that others afflicted with this disease will display behaviors and challenges your loved never will or visa versa. About 60% of those with Alzheimer’s will wander while others won’t. Some may become fearful or paranoid while others are a constant source of joy. And then there are those that never want to change their clothes, take a shower or refuse to take their all important medications, making for very long days for their caregiver.
It goes without saying that an informed caregiver is a better caregiver. An educated caregiver not only understands the illness but they also understand how to deal with many of those special behavior challenges they may face in the course of a day.
There is nothing that genetically pre-disposes someone with Alzheimer’s disease to be aggressive In fact, its been said that 90% of aggressive behavior is caused by their environment and that includes how they’re treated by you and me. Their behaviors are a way that they communicate with us. In fact, it’s not very much different than interpreting and dealing with the behaviors of a very young child. If you were a parent, you may remember how quickly you were able to tell which noise , cry or action your baby took and what it meant. Every parent learned very quickly which cry meant their baby was hurt, was frustrated or was tired and how to tell them apart. Many a caregiving son and daughter refer to the role reversal they are playing today as now they are caring for their parents as their parents once cared for them.
What is their behavior trying to tell you? Are they hungry, too hot or too cold, thirsty, hurt, do they have to go to the bathroom, are they scared or anxious or frustrated over something they want to do but can’t? Unlike a young child, it isn’t always easy to figure out what they may be trying to tell you but don’t stop trying. The standard advice is always look to what may have happened prior to the behavior. Are there a lot of things happening in the room they’re in with noise from adults, children, music and the television that they can’t process causing them to be agitated? If he stands up and starts to rock back and forth does he need to visit the toilet? Was there something she saw on television or heard that has triggered her “worry” button?
It’s at times like these that you really need to be patient and understanding and maybe even play detective. Yes, you may have to modify your lifestyle if there’s some part of it that’s not working for them but that’s a small price to pay. If taking them for a ride to get you both out of the house scares them because they don’t know where they are, then don’t do it. If you need to warm up the bathroom first before you shower them, by all means do it. And if you should be focusing on re-directing them to a favorite activity to reduce their “sundowning” at the end of the day, that should be part of their routine every day.
Clearly some solutions to challenging behaviors are easier to find than others and your being patient and loving with them during that process is critical.
Questions? Email me at repe@careforcaregivers.org. Remember, Join the Journey!

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Robert Elmer IIIView all posts by Robert Elmer III