By 2050, the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease in the US is projected to surpass 13 million.
As our population ages, the number of loved ones with Alzheimer’s is going to increase. Knowing how to recognize Alzheimer’s behaviors allows you to get the help you need as early as possible.
Deciphering between age-related changes and behavior changes associated with Alzheimer’s isn’t always clear. And recognizing this disease for the debilitating condition it is is the first step in knowing how to deal with Alzheimer’s patients.
Here we explain exactly what Alzheimer’s is, how to recognize it, and how to cope.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Dementia and Alzheimer’s are often used interchangeably. It’s more accurate to say that Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia. As such, they share symptoms and causes.
Dementia describes a group of symptoms. These symptoms affect cognitive tasks involving memory, mood, and reasoning. It leads to the breakdown of communication skills and the inability to perform daily tasks.
But dementia is progressive. The longer someone has it, the worse the symptoms become.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of severe dementia. It carries all the symptoms described above but Alzheimer’s is a disease.
Alzheimer’s is caused by neurons in the brain not being able to communicate. Over time, this causes brain cells to die. This is why Alzheimer’s is currently incurable.
Common Alzheimer’s Behaviors
Knowing the difference between normal age-related changes and changes related to dementia and Alzheimer’s can give you more treatment and planning options.
Although many of the below symptoms are similar to general aging issues, diagnosis is based on a patient displaying impairment in the following ways:
When memory loss is caused by Alzheimer’s, it typically has to do with short-term memory in the early stages. This involves forgetting where objects were placed or forgetting about the details of their day.
Memory loss can also lead to a repetition of tasks, conversation, and even obsessively collecting items. As memory loss progresses, it causes other perceivable changes in an Alzheimer’s patient.
Closely related to memory loss is a loss of words. Someone suffering from Alzheimer’s will find it increasingly difficult to communicate, express themselves, and find their words.
An early sign of Alzheimer’s is the inability to take part in a conversation. Often because they have difficulty remembering the meaning of words, Alzheimer’s patients are unable to follow storylines and conversations.
A delusion is any false thing that the patient believes to be true. These can be full-on hallucinations or simple beliefs. Delusions lead to paranoia and suspiciousness.
The inability to remember details such as people, places, and things, can affect a person’s judgment. As their judgment is impaired, you may notice personality and mood changes.
These changes can include depression, apathy, and anxiety. But another symptom of Alzheimer’s is extreme and sudden emotional changes. These may take the form of sudden anger or aggression and even inappropriate behavior.
Someone suffering from Alzheimer’s may forget to do simple tasks such as grooming, styling, and bathing. Due to forgetting, confusion, or the inability to complete the task, you may notice a change in their hygienic and grooming routines.
Not being able to remember people, appointments, places, and other important details can cause confusion in everyday situations. Confusion can also relate to temporarily misperceiving time and place.
Other Alzheimer’s Symptoms
Other Alzheimer’s personality changes that may be more difficult to recognize include:
- hiding objects and other items
- a decrease in regular walking speed
- resistance to change
- unusual sexual behavior
- inability to detect sarcasm, lies, or insincerity
- change in taste/new cravings
- hitting or physical violence
- a desire to wear the same clothes
People suffering from frontotemporal dementia may even engage in criminal activity. This type of dementia effects functioning and reasoning and has led to patients committing crimes like stealing or trespassing.
How to Deal with Alzheimer’s Patients
Alzheimer’s is an incurable disease. Learning how to cope with someone experiencing the changes associated with Alzheimer’s can help both you and the individual suffering from the disease.
First, ensure that the above symptoms aren’t worsened as a result of another medical condition. Check for health-related problems from an illness, new medication, or lack of sleep. You might also make sure that your loved one isn’t suffering from an infection, problems with sight, or hearing, or constipation.
Beyond checking those items, you can follow these guidelines on how to deal with Alzheimer’s:
- Keep tasks, instructions, and questions simple.
- Focus on one thing at a time.
- Create a routine to make it easier to remember how the day should flow.
- Reassure the patient of your intentions when they’re uneasy.
- Don’t argue with the patient. Maintain patience. When you’re unable to do so, leave the room for a few minutes and cool down before returning. Getting upset or angry may frighten the patient and cause a larger issue.
- Make sure that they have safe and clear walkways throughout the home to avoid falls.
- Make sure they’re getting enough to eat and drink. Dehydration is a common problem in Alzheimer’s patients.
- Consider getting full-time help with your loved one at an Alzheimer’s and dementia care facility.
You should speak with the doctor about other steps you can take to take the best care of an Alzheimer’s patient. You should also mention if hitting, biting, depression, or hallucinations occur. These behavioral symptoms can be treated with prescriptions medications to keep both you and the patient safe.
Are You Concerned About a Loved One?
Alzheimer’s behaviors are closely related to the memory loss suffered by Alzheimer’s patients. Losing their memory causes confusion and affects speech as well as changes to personal care. As their ability to remember details fades, their behavior changes and may become more aggressive or disinterested.
Recognizing the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s and even dementia can help you better prepare. If you’re concerned about a loved one, check out more resources on our blog.