While many people are most familiar with the memory loss that accompanies dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease, there are other troubling symptoms and side effects that can be hard to deal with emotionally. Since the disease affects so much of the brain’s structure and affects cognition in so many different ways, patients often act out in ways that aren’t so obviously tied to their condition. Learn why aggression, rude behavior, and inappropriate anger is not your fault if you’re a caretaker or loved one of someone with Alzheimer’s.
It isn’t that Alzheimer’s causes a person to become mean, unpleasant, or develop a different personality. It’s that most patients experience very strong negative reactions to things, such as an injury or illness, a change in routine, or another source of discomfort, and they have trouble communicating clearly about their discomfort. This leads to behaviors viewed as acting out because it’s often the only form of communication still available due to impaired cognition.
Routines Away From Triggers
Aside from developing negative behaviors in reaction to a one-time problem like an illness, many patients also establish aggressive or rude patterns that seem to correlate with a particular time of day. Since the sun going down has a measured disorientating effect on Alzheimer’s patients, known as the sundown effect, many caretakers find the negative episodes occurring more during the evening and night time. Establishing a consistent and early bedtime routine is one of the best ways to prevent many negative episodes, even if they usually occur during the daytime hours since there is some research to suggest that an early bed routine establishes a better mood pattern for the entire following day.
Keeping track of both spontaneous triggers and routine patterns allows you to develop ways to prevent and circumvent aggressive or rude behavior. If you know that your loved one tends to become crabby and physically difficult every day around 3 pm, scheduling a nap or giving them a favorite task to do during that period is an excellent way to interrupt the cycle.
Behaviors related to the Alzheimer’s disease itself tend to manifest slowly and remain in effect for a while, even if they appear intermittent. A sudden increase in aggression or anger could indicate an underlying health condition. Many patients only begin to act out when suffering from a bladder infection, one of the most common ailments correlated with the condition. It’s also an indicator of a medication problem, either in dosage or due to interactions between the different medications. Most Alzheimer’s patients have secondary health conditions that also need treatment, and a stable combination can always change due to body chemistry and begin triggering troubling side effects. Schedule a doctor’s checkup immediately with the primary care provider if you notice any sudden behavioral changes in someone who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Sometimes the best way to help a person with cognitive impairment and resulting behavioral issues is to turn to the professionals. Moving to a dementia care facility like Arbor Place gives your loved one access to direct care and can change ingrained habits thanks to the new environment.