Behavior Control With Alzheimer’s
By Carolyn L. Rosenblatt, R. N., Attorney at Law
Researchers who study behavior of persons with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) have theorized that agitation and outbursts may be an expression of internal needs the individual can’t meet. They have a decreased ability to manage stress. When stress builds up, the person with dementia may be unable to cope, and acts out in agitated or violent ways.
Research suggests that an activity program tailored to the elder’s level of function can do much to reduce agitation. An assessment of your elder’s level of capability is essential to getting the right activity program started. We encourage asking your loved one’s doctor for an occupational therapy assessment to get clear about what your elder can and can’t manage for activities.
The successes in the research were with short instructions, simple activities such as folding towels or washing windows, and other simple, repetitive actions. Viewing a video, winding yarn, singing familiar songs, as well as art projects, again simplified, were also successful, depending on the level of function the elder was capable of doing.
Seeking help from the Alzheimer’s Association and from your health care provider can get you started. The Alzheimer’s Association is also an excellent resource for any caregiver, providing connection to others who are caregivers for those with AD.
Violent behavior can’t always be controlled by these techniques, which are simple and direct. Medication can also be helpful. It can provide chemical calming when other things, by themselves, don’t work. This is not to suggest that we knock people out because they’re too much trouble. Rather, medication can be an additional support for the safety of the caregiver when an elder’s behavior needs extra controls.
The treating doctor is your guide. Ask for help and insist that your loved one get evaluated for medication to assist with the problem of agitated behavior if activity programs alone are insufficient. This is especially true for those who have an elder with AD living in the home with the caregiver, and there is insufficient help to use tailored activity programs day and night. Advocate for yourself, as a caregiver. Your needs matter too!
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