Though it’s easy to focus on the “memory” aspects of Alzheimer’s disease, there are other challenges faced by loved ones and caregivers in the Cedar Rapids area, whether they’re receiving home care or hospice services.
The staff at Above and Beyond Home Health Care is happy to assist patient families who are going through the process of trying to learn more about what they may be experiencing or what different levels of care they may need as a loved one deals with Alzheimer’s disease or similar dementias.
Every individual is different and may show different symptoms but often will have similar progressions as Alzheimer’s disease attacks their mind and their body. Some people may take varying lengths to reach the more debilitating conditions but at this time, the disease is considered irreversible.
Many of us are familiar with the memory problems patients may encounter, where they aren’t able to recall people in their life or short-term information. Related to this is confusion, where they no longer recognize their surroundings and are aware something is wrong.
The declining health problems due to dementia combined with new emotions from the same situation may also cause fear and anger which can take the form of aggressive behavior.
This type of aggression is common in later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and sometimes may be triggered by specific incidents and other times part of the general confusion and complex emotions taking place.
According to the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver Center, part of the Alzheimer’s Association, said aggressive behavior can be physical or verbal. They may lash out at caregivers, medical providers or family members. They may scream, throw things or attack. They may resist guidance or even physical contact.
Sometimes the cause or trigger may be based on confusion about their situation or people around them, sometimes it can be about something physically bothering them or over-stimulating that they can’t understand or find the proper words to explain. A change in basic routine could unsettle them as well, and, in some cases, there may not even be a direct cause that’s understandable, predictable or identifiable to anyone except for the person dealing with Alzheimer’s.
What To Do About It
Family members or caregivers in these situations are the best ones to observe the patient and try to take steps to keep him or her from injuring themselves or others. At the same time, they also are closest target which puts them at a higher risk for physical or verbal harm.
Consider taking some of these steps to minimize possible disruptive aggressive behavior:
- Try to guess the cause. While it might be difficult or impossible to pinpoint what someone is thinking and why they’re suddenly angry and aggressive, there may be some obvious environmental causes that the patient may not be able to articulate. It could be something different or discomforting in their daily schedule or routine, such as a different diet or medication, different visitors or even something different in their living space – different color sheets or a different picture. They may not be able to respond if they are at the point of hospice care, so some observation and guesswork may be needed.
- Don’t argue or fight back. WebMD said people with advanced Alzheimer’s disease may be absolutely convinced that they need to attack whatever or whoever is around them. Fighting back will likely upset them further and maybe even more physically aggressive.
- Keep calm. Lowering voices can help reduce tension, as well as looking for ways to reduce stimulation around them. This can include muting or turning off a nearby TV or radio, moving away from a busy, crowded area with a lot of litter, or even dimming lights. Speaking slowly and clearly can also help.
- Focus on the past. If a person is scared and confused about what’s around them at present, they may be able to lose some of their panic if someone starts talking about or asking about past moments from their life.
- Try to distract. If someone’s short-term memory is gone, they may not remember why they were angry or attacking a few minutes ago, especially if something else catches their attention. If a person is offered a favorite snack or something similarly prized, they may focus on that.
Someone with advanced symptoms from Alzheimer’s disease may be placed under hospice care if they have become so unresponsive and no longer are able to move, eat, or drink on their own. A medical professional is required to make this evaluation based on a variety of factors including medical history and observation of the disease.
Home health care or hospice care professionals in the Cedar Rapids area are familiar with the dementia process so are aware of the possibility of aggression and why it could be occurring. They may be able to help assess what’s happening to trigger specific patients.
Above and Beyond Home Health Care can also give advice to families about what’s happening and why.