A Guide to Managing Challenging Behaviors in Loved Ones with Memory Loss

Managing Challenging Behaviors in Loved Ones with Memory Loss

Through no fault of their own, individuals living with progressive memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia typically exhibit a variety of difficult and sometimes disturbing behaviors. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the root of these behaviors is the progressive deterioration of the person’s brain cells. They add that pain and other types of discomfort can also cause challenging symptoms or make them worse.

Memory care experts say that most of these unsettling behaviors stem from certain “triggers,” such as difficulty performing basic tasks, loud noises, the inability to communicate, physical discomfort, a hectic environment and unfamiliar surroundings.

Understanding Is Key to Managing Symptoms and Easing Caregiver Stress

Carmen DurenExecutive Director at Provident Village at Canton in Canton, GA, says, “An understanding of the basic disease process is an essential first step in dealing with your loved one’s challenging symptoms. You cannot alter the physiological and behavioral changes caused by their progressive memory loss, thus it is very important to remember that the person with Alzheimer’s disease is never to blame for their symptoms or their resulting actions.

“As some say, it is the disease acting, not your loved one. Therefore, you must always separate the effects of the disease from the person you have known and loved. This becomes increasingly important over time as the changes to their brain continue and their resulting behaviors become more pronounced and difficult to manage.

“Because you cannot control the changes taking place in their brain, it is most useful to focus on reducing or eliminating the triggers that create their problematic behaviors. Doing so will improve their quality of life, while making your life easier.

“Fortunately, a variety of helpful suggestions are available that have proven useful to caregivers in creating an environment that is more conducive to managing and coping with challenging symptoms as the disease progresses.”

9 Tips for Managing the Challenging Behaviors of Memory Loss

The Alzheimer’s Association article “Treatments for Behavior” provides expert suggestions for managing many of the most difficult symptoms and behaviors of Alzheimer’s disease. For example:

  1. Anxiety and Agitation – Try to create a calming, tranquil environment. Be patient and try to project an air of calm. Eliminate loud noises and use soft, relaxing music and ambient “white noise.” Activities such as pet visits, art and music therapy and regular exercise, such as daily walks, have also proven effective in reducing the level of stress-related behaviors.
  2. Anger or Aggression – It is suggested that you should not confront your loved one or try to discuss their angry behavior. The best advice is to allow them some time and space to “decompress.” You can also try to distract them with a favorite activity or topic.
  3. Physical Discomfort –Monitor your loved one’s personal comfort regularly. Check for pain, hunger, thirst, constipation, full bladder, fatigue, infections and skin irritation. Maintain a comfortable room temperature.
  4. Difficulty with Communication – Try to be very simple and concise in your communications. To understand your loved one, you may have to interpret what they are feeling or attempting to express, as their words may not be clear.
  5. Wandering – This is a common behavior and may result from your loved one being hungry, thirsty or in some discomfort. Wandering can also be triggered by boredom, anxiety or a lack of exercise. It is best to address the cause or source and attempt to rechannel the wandering into a more appropriate activity.
  6. Evening Restlessness or “Sundowning” – To control your loved one’s increased agitation in the early evening, try to increase their physical activity during the day and monitor their napping schedule. It is also important to monitor and limit their use of products with caffeine and to keep their environment as calm and tranquil as possible in the evening.
  7. Eating Problems – Try to reduce any distractions when your loved one is eating. In addition, regular exercise is strongly encouraged to increase their appetite. Be sure to monitor their medications, as some may interfere with their desire to eat.
  8. Sleep Issues – Be aware that confusion and over-stimulation during the day can result in increased restlessness and insecurity at night. Try to encourage a regular sleep routine that is normal for your loved one.
  9. Hallucinations and Suspicions – It is not productive to argue with your loved one about what is real and what is imagined. Instead, try to focus on the emotions your loved one is feeling. Provide simple explanations for accusations without being confrontational.

Carmen adds, “In addition to applying these tips for managing challenging behaviors, you should also create a care support network for yourself. The fact is that no one person can do this alone for very long.

“Serious health consequences can result from what is commonly called ‘caregiver burnout’ in the form of severe stress, mental exhaustion, hypertension and depression. Therefore, organize a support team that includes other family members, close friends, community resources and national support resources such as the Alzheimer’s Help Center.

“Being a caregiver is a highly challenging and sometimes thankless job, and you deserve all the help and support that is available.”

Your Family Resource for Senior Living Information and Support

You’ll find that Provident Village at Canton is also a wonderful source of assistance. We offer more than active, purposeful lifestyles; we are also an important resource for families.

We invite you to read our regular articles and tips on a variety of pertinent senior living topics. Also,we welcome you to view our schedule of free, public educational events each month and hope you will join us for our highly informative programs.

We are here to serve you and welcome any questions you have about our life-enriching programs, services and amenities.

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At Provident Village at Canton, we believe vibrant days ensure bright tomorrows, so we've created a community where seniors, quite simply, Live Vibrantly! Whether it's in our Assisted Living Community or Memory Care Neighborhood, each day we celebrate the individuality and strengths of each resident.

At Provident Village, to Live Vibrantly! means that days are filled with joy, vitality, growth and security. It means residents are socially active and personally empowered, with access to the personalized care and support they need to live fully. It means residing in a community where intellectual, social, emotional, spiritual and physical care are seamlessly integrated into everyday life.

Our compassionate Care Partners dedicate each day to enriching the lives of our residents. They customize the level of attention and activities to each resident's specific needs and abilities. Our living environments are warm and inviting, with comfortable furnishings, beautiful fixtures and natural elements that bring the outdoors inside.

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