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Alzheimer’s is a disease that causes behaviors that may make it difficult for caregivers to continue to provide care at home.  I often meet with families who are overwhelmed and aren’t sure if they can continue to provide care for their loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.  I often am invited to discuss services with the family when aggressive behavior has started.  This is usually the point where families start to consider nursing home placement.  There are a lot of different things to consider when looking at a behavior especially when aggression is involved.

  1. Visit with the physician and talk with them about home care. Sometimes there is a medical reason – like a urinary tract infection – that is causing a change in mood and behaviors.  This is especially true when the change in behavior has happened rapidly.  Home health care can provide a nurse to come into the home and collect the urine without the person having to go into the doctor’s office.  The home health nurse can also oversee general health and consult with the doctor on care as well as working with the caregiver on techniques to minimize behaviors.  
  2. Consider if the person is having pain.  Often the person who has Alzheimer’s loses the ability to communicate their needs.  Therefore pain can often lead to an aggressive behavior.  If appropriate, a regularly-scheduled Tylenol can keep aggression down because it reduces pain on a consistent schedule.  
  3. Is your loved one getting adequate rest? Do they have trouble sleeping? Sleepless nights may lead to irritable days.  Ask the doctor if the person might benefit from a sleep aid.  There are some natural remedies the doctor might want you to try but getting a normal sleep pattern will help with aggressive behavior and also help the caregiver get rest, too.  If sleep is still difficult after trying different techniques, it may be necessary to hire a home care agency to provide overnight care.
  4. Too much stimulation might also lead to aggressiveness.  Consider the times the aggression is occurring and try and change the environment. Noise and commotion are common triggers that can lead to aggressive behaviors. Many times, large crowds or visitors can be too much for a person to deal with who has Alzheimer’s.  Enter in a log the time of day that the behaviors occur and make sure to try and schedule appointments and activities during the times when the person usually is functioning better and not too tired.  For the families I work with, mornings are usually better than afternoons.  
  5. How you are communicating with the person?  If you are asking a lot of questions and talking fast, this can confuse the person even more, causing a lot of frustration.  Simple instructions and offering two options is a good practice.

Western Illinois Home Healthcare workers are certified in the Alzheimer’s Whisperer Program through C&V Senior Care Specialists.  Our staff is trained to provide care for people with Alzheimer’s Disease and reduce stress for the client and caregiver.  Our nurses are trained to help caregivers overcome their challenges and provide support through skilled services.  Our goal is to keep your loved one at home.  If you or someone you know is having difficulty caring for their loved one, please call us at 1-800-228-5993.  

Amanda Powell, BSW is a Senior Care Manager for Western Illinois Home Health Care

Aggression and Alzheimer’s Disease

March 2015

by Amanda Powell

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