For the millions of senior adults living with Alzheimer's disease today, dealing with some of the devastating side effects of this disease can be truly devastating and overwhelming. There are so many different ways in which this condition impacts the mind and the body and for Alzheimer's patients and their families understanding the side effects of this disease is one of the best ways to be ready to handle certain side effects when they occur.
There are more than 4.5 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease every year, and up to 50 percent of these individuals tend to suffer from one of the most serious and challenging symptoms of this disease: aggression.
This is a side effect that many seniors and their family members are not prepared for when they first receive an Alzheimer's diagnosis. It is also one of the top reasons that families choose to have their senior loved ones live in a nursing home. Deciding to place a senior with aggressive Alzheimer's outbursts in a nursing home is not a bad decision. Many times, this is the best course of action for both the senior and their family member and it can help keep all parties involved safe and well taken care of.
While so many people today simply think of Alzheimer's disease as a memory condition, it actually impacts the brain in other ways and can completely change a person's behavior. While aggression can be hard to predict, there are new advancements, coping methods and medications that can help control aggressive outbursts when they do happen.
There are a number of medications that doctors are prescribing to Alzheimer's patients that can help them manage their aggressive behavior. In addition to these prescriptions there are other things that loved ones and caregivers can do to lessen the chances of an aggressive outburst.
When Alzheimer's patients are dealing with a fit of aggression, they don't want to be tricked or talked down to as if they were a child. Instead, just use logic and reason to try to talk them through the situation. If you use logic to discuss what is going on, instead of reprimanding them for their behavior, Alzheimer's patients will typically be able to control their emotions and their impulses and calm down on their own.
Acknowledge Their Feelings
There will be times when Alzheimer's patients will feel so sad or frustrated that they simply need to have an outburst. Many times, dementia has caused so many changes to their brain that there is nothing they can do to control these outbursts. When a senior with Alzheimer's reacts in this way, acknowledge the feelings that they have. Let them know it is alright to feel this way and that you understand their feelings. The more you argue with them about why they are feeling a certain way, the more frustrated they will likely become.
Ignore Aggression Reactions
Acknowledging a senior's feelings is a great idea, promoting poor behavior is not. While you can validate a person's feelings, and the reasons why they feel angry, you shouldn't make them feel as though aggression is acceptable. Do not give in to aggressive threats or behavior or validate this type of reaction, it will only make the problem worse.
Look For Triggers
One of the best ways to prevent aggressive outbursts from happening is to learn what triggers them in the first place and do everything possible to avoid those triggers. For most individuals with Alzheimer's, aggressive outbursts don't just happen out of nowhere. They may react more adversely to certain situations than they would normally, but it doesn't mean that there isn't a reason for the outburst.
Some outbursts can be easy to avoid. If your loved one gets angry when the television is on during dinner, then don't turn the television on during dinner. Other triggers are more difficult to ignore.
Some seniors may have outbursts when it is time to go to bed, perhaps because they don't like being left alone at night. While you can't just never bring them to bed, you can start slowing down the process and completing it step by step. Go slow, talk them through the process, distract them as you head towards bed and stay with them until they fall asleep. The more you can do to avoid upsetting the senior, the fewer issues there will be.
Stick to a Routine
One of the biggest triggers for aggression in Alzheimer's patients tends to occur when there is uncertainty. When an individual with Alzheimer's doesn't know what is coming next, or faces surprises, they may react with aggression. One of the best things to do in order to combat this issue is to create a strict routine and always try to stick with it.
Routines are great for Alzheimer's patients as they can help individuals with their memory. When an individual with Alzheimer's knows what is next in their routine, they are less likely to get caught off guard and react poorly.
Use Signs and Labels
For many Alzheimer's patients, nothing is as frustrating as forgetting the name of something or where something is located. Help them out and prevent unnecessary outbursts by using labels and signs around the home. This includes signs on rooms, phone numbers next to the phone, labels on cupboards and name tags on visitors. The less seniors struggle to recall names and objects, the less frustrated they will get.
Learn From Mistakes
No one will handle aggressive outbursts perfectly every time that they happen. One of the best things that caregivers can do when these situations arise is to do their best and afterwards think about their reaction and their behavior, while learning from their mistakes. A great care provider will always look at how their handled an aggressive outburst and think "ok, what could I have done better?"
Keep these tips in mind when it comes to creating a positive environment for any individual dealing with Alzheimer's. Small changes such as this can really go a long way in preventing aggressive outbursts from happening and for handling these bouts when they do occur.