How to Handle Behavioral Changes with Alzheimer’s

caregiver comforting senior with alzheimer's
Learn how to better understand and manage behavioral changes associated with Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s disease is a complex medical condition that often presents complex issues for family caregivers. As the disease continues into later stages, those with Alzheimer’s increasingly communicate through behaviors rather than speech, and quite often, these types of behaviors can be inappropriate. For instance, an older adult with more advanced Alzheimer’s disease may exhibit the following behavior changes with Alzheimer’s:

  • Combativeness and aggression
  • Unacceptable sexual behavior such as:
    • Undressing or touching himself/herself in public
    • Utilizing coarse or obscene language
    • Jealous claims that a spouse is having an affair
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression

These behaviors can be embarrassing or distressing for family caregivers. And, they can also be highly confusing and difficult for the older person with dementia, as he or she probably doesn’t understand why the behavior is regarded as inappropriate or why it is distressing to others.

As an Alzheimer’s caregiver, it is essential to bear in mind that any troubling behaviors the senior displays are the result of the disease  — or potentially other health concerns or medications — not a representation of the person’s character. Also, often what seems like sexually inappropriate conduct is actually an expression of a non-sexual need, such as a need to use the restroom or a need for closeness.

If you cannot uncover a reason for the older person’s behavior, try these solutions:

  • Redirect the senior to an enjoyable hobby or activity such as listening to music or looking through family pictures in a photo album.
  • Calmly, but promptly, find a private area like a restroom or changing area if the senior begins to get undressed in public.
  • React to feelings of lonesomeness or a need for being close with a kind pat or a hug and soothing conversation.
  • Try increasing the amount of exercise or physical activity the person is getting.
  • Think through functional solutions; for inappropriate disrobing, buy special clothes created with fasteners in the back for this particular reason, or try putting trousers or dresses on

When responding to concerning behavior changes with Alzheimer’s:

  • Respond calmly and matter-of-factly. Arguing with or embarrassing the person can exacerbate the situation; try to be gentle and patient.
  • Never overreact. Providing too much affection may encourage unwanted sexual behavior, while shouting or shaming may scare or confuse the senior even more.
  • Discover a change of scenery, whether it is a new environment that does not allow for the behavior to be a cause of concern, or a new activity that redirects the person from the behavior altogether.

For more help managing the complex aspects of Alzheimer’s for someone you love, Contact Stay Home Care at 615-964-7726. As the leading providers of Nashville, TN elder care and senior care in Spring Hill, Gallatin, Pleasant View, and the surrounding areas, our caregivers are fully trained and experienced in creative, effective dementia care techniques, and we’re here to help whenever you need us.