Ain’t Misbehavin’, Just Being Symptomatic


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​There are a lot of heartbreaks that come with caring for someone with Alzheimer's or dementia. There are the big, momentous ones: the first signs that something is seriously wrong, the initial diagnosis, the realization that the person that you once knew is slowly slipping away forever.​

And then there are the day-to-day heartbreaks that crop up more and more often as the disease progresses. Sometimes these can seem too small to mention: the same story or question repeated over and over again, day after day; nagging or criticizing, refusal to take a shower or eat proper meals; puttering around the house all night long and sleeping all day.​

These behaviors become so routine that family caregivers begin to think of them as the new normal, too trivial to complain about or address when there are so many big-picture issues going on.

But these seemingly mundane problems can wear a caregiver down. And ignoring them won't make them go away.​

Our website, helpforalzheimersfamilies.com is practically an encyclopedia of resources for dealing with Alzheimer's behaviors, both large and small, and our professional CAREGivers receive extensive training on managing behaviors so that individuals and families living with Alzheimer's can keep things running smoothly.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for managing behaviors associated with Alzheimer's and dementia, here are some of the techniques that we often find effective for getting positive outcomes when the situation begins to deteriorate.

  • Meet the person where they are. If a person with Alzheimer's keeps traveling in their mind back to, say, the Korean War, you can tell them that it's 2015 till you're blue in the face and it's not going to do any good. Instead, go along with their narrative and try to incorporate it into your goals. For example, if that person refuses to bathe in the mornings, tell him that the general is coming and everything needs to be ship-shape.
  • Harness the power of music. Music therapy has had extraordinary results for people with Alzheimer's and it is accessible to just about anyone. During a quiet moment, try to learn about what music has been important to that person in their lifetime. Then, when things take a turn for the worse, put that song or genre of music on to distract them from whatever is going on that's unsettling.
  • Keep calm and carry on. This is easier said (and printed on everything from posters to coasters) than done, but it's a cliché because it's true. If both of you have your feathers all ruffled, things are just going to end in disaster. Instead, take a deep breath, maybe try another activity to distract you both and defuse the tension for a few minutes, and, above all, keep your cool. When we're feeling defeated by Alzheimer's behaviors, it's more important than ever to remember that it's not the person, it's the disease.

For more information about caring for someone with Alzheimer's, please contact us!

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