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Is Alzheimer’s Behavior Driving You Crazy? Keys to Deal with Difficult Alzheimer’s Issues

Posted Oct 06 2009 10:02pm

Is your parent or spouse  out of control?

It can feel that way, if you’re dealing with Alzheimer’s.

Some days, my mom was worse than a room full of toddlers. She would try to “catch a taxi” by sneaking out the front door, stand with the refrigerator door eating jelly with her hands, grab my wrist and beg “Little girl, take me with you,” when I needed to leave her room, and sometimes yell or dump everything out of a drawer. Sometimes she was whiney, other times demanding, and yes, there were day when she was downright mean.

I knew it was the Alzheimer’s, and I did all I could to keep her safe and watch her carefully, but it was near impossible. At this stage of Alzheimer’s (mid to late), the medications don’t work as well.

This is the point when many families start seeking a care home for their loved one. I understand why. It’s not safe, and caregivers have to consider their own health, their livelihoods, and their relationships and balance all of this on the head of a pin. The guilt, worry, and resentment pile up like too many Autumn leaves.

Keys to Dealing with Difficult Alzheimer’s Behavior”:

  • As hard as it is, separate your emotions. Your loved one isn’t meaning to get you upset. Alzheimer’s causes changes in the brain. They can’t remember or comprehend what you’re asking them to do or not do. No matter how mad you get, how much you yell, it won’t stop them. They might not even understand what you want of them when you’re saying it, and certainly not minutes, hours, or days later. Love your mom, dad, spouse just as they are–and hold in your heart who they’ve always been to you.
  • Get home help. Now is the time you’ve been waiting for. Your loved one needs close supervision–more than one person can give. Hiring a home health aide is still a cheap(er) alternative to a care facility. Check into agencies who are used to working with those who have Alzheimer’s and ask specifically for a more experienced professional.
  • Distract and substitute. I wrote a blog at AlzheimersCaregiving.com on how these two techniques can help to calm an agitated loved one. You can’t argue with them, but you can distract them–with another object, a person, a song, or substitute their behavior or object with something “shiny” that interests them. Keep a “toy box” of items they like–a stuffed animal or old pocket watch that doesn’t work.
  • Start checking out some nearby care homes. As much as we love them, want them home with us, sometimes it’s just not possible.  locked facility (sounds terrible but it’s not) can give you the peace of mind to know they’re not going to wander. You’re still their family, their care advocate, but know that many families feel they have no alternative –for safety and health reasons than to place their loved one in the best care home (locked/long-term care/memory disorder centers) where their needs will be met.  

All you can do is face each day as it comes. Rally help around you, use every tactic you can, separate the disease from the person, and know that you might not be able to keep  loved one at home for the rest of their lives, but your love, committment, and caregiving advocacy is much needed.

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