Anxiety or agitation
Sundowning and sleep problems
Alzheimer's causes changes in the brain that can change the way a person acts. Some individuals with Alzheimer's become anxious or aggressive. Others repeat certain questions and gestures. Many misinterpret what they see or hear. It is important to understand that the person is not acting this way on purpose or trying to annoy you.
Challenging behaviors can interfere with daily life, sleep and may lead to frustration and tension. The key to dealing with behaviors is: 1) determine the triggers 2) have patience and respond in a calm and supporting way and 3) find ways to prevent the behaviors from happening.
Aggression – Aggressive behaviors may be verbal (shouting, name-calling) or physical (hitting, pushing). They can occur suddenly, with no apparent reason, or can result from a frustrating situation. Whatever the case, it is important to try to understand what is causing the person to become angry or upset. Triggers for aggression can include a medical problem, a noisy environment or pain.
Wandering – It is common for individuals with dementia to wander and become lost. They often have a purpose or goal in mind, such as searching for a lost object, trying to fulfill a former job responsibility or wanting to "go home" even when at home. However, wandering can be dangerous, resulting in serious injury or death. Help keep your loved one safe and enroll in MedicAlert + Alzheimer's Association Safe Return®, a nationwide identification program designed to assist in the return of those who wander and become lost.
Anxiety or agitation – The person may feel anxious or agitated, or may become restless and need to move around or pace. The person may become upset in certain places or focused on specific details. He or she may also cling to a certain caregiver for attention and direction.
Confusion – The person may not recognize familiar people, places or things. He or she may forget relationships, call family members by other names or become confused about where home is. The person may also forget the purpose of common items, such as a pen or a fork.
Hallucinations – When individuals Alzheimer's disease have a hallucination, they see, hear, smell, taste or feel something that isn't there. The person may see the face of a former friend in a curtain or may hear people talking. If the hallucination doesn't cause problems, you may want to ignore it. However, if they happen continuously, see a doctor to determine if there is an underlying physical cause.
Repetition – The person with Alzheimer's may do or say something over and over again – like repeating a word, question or activity. In most cases, he or she is probably looking for comfort, security and familiarity. The person may also pace or undo what has just been finished. These actions are rarely harmful to the person with Alzheimer's but can be stressful for the caregiver.
Sundowning and sleep problems – The person may experience periods of increased confusion, anxiety and agitation beginning at dusk and continuing throughout the night. This is called sundowning. Experts are not sure what causes it, but there are factors that can contribute to the behavior, such as end-of-day exhaustion or less need for sleep, which is common among older adults.
Suspicion – Memory loss and confusion may cause the person with Alzheimer's to perceive things in new, unusual ways. Individuals may become suspicious of those around them, even accusing others of theft, infidelity or other improper behavior. Sometimes the person may also misinterpret what he or she sees and hears.
Next: What's Happening to Grandpa