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Alzheimer's Caregivers: Techniques for Dealing with Dementia Behaviors - Aging Wisely

One of the biggest challenges of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can be handling changing personality and behaviors, and learning new ways to react. Your usual reaction of logical arguments and reasoning won’t work, and it is easy to become frustrated.

Here are a few basic tips for reacting to dementia behaviors, from sundowning to agitation and repetitive behaviors or paranoia and arguing:

1. Use “Yes, and…” statements, as a means to acknowledge the person’s feelings and beliefs (which are very real to them) without arguing about realities, and to lead the focus on to another issue or behavior. For example, the person with Alzheimer’s disease states “I want to go home or I need to be at work now” and you might say “Yes and why don’t we go over here and…” or “I understand, and maybe we should go find out what those people are doing in that group over there.”
2. As follow up to #1, acknowledge the person’s feelings, fears, concerns, even if the solutions they seek are not an option, or the fears seem unfounded. Focus on the feelings, not the behavior or argument.
3. Know that your emotions and state of mind will impact the interaction. This is one reason why having assistance or respite can be so important. If you are rushed and upset, the person will usually reflect those attitudes in their behavior.
4. Try to identify underlying causes of behavioral changes or agitation, such as changes to routine, noises, infections/underlying medical conditions. If you notice a sudden, severe change in behavior, there is almost always an underlying cause. Be vigilant in pursuing possible infections or medical concerns with medical and care professionals.

We offer one on one consultations with our care managers, who have in depth education and experience in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Caregiver consultations may include: techniques for managing behaviors, ideas for adapting the environment, resources to assist or offer respite, understanding the diagnostic process or getting an evaluation for specific needs.

You may also wish to visit our page about Sundowner’s Syndrome or sundowning behaviors, and we invite you to sign up for our email newsletter, with regular updates on eldercare and caregiving tips. Let our experienced geriatric care managers work for you, to help support you as an Alzheimer’s caregiver and to help ensure the safety and wellbeing of your loved one.

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