Alzheimer's type dementia causes physical changes in the brain that often result in changes in behaviors or personality during the middle stages of the disease. Imagine that you are drowning and someone attempts to pull you to shore. Your oxygen deprived mind gives you confusing signals and you fight the person who is trying to save you. A person with significant memory loss may react to the mixed or confused signals in his brain with anger, aggression, anxiety, apathy, paranoia, wandering or rummaging behavior. His "internal clock" is confused so he doesn't sleep well, continually asks "When do we eat?" or "When can I go home?"
She may get lost in familiar areas, shadow the person that provides security ("stuck like glue to my side"), fear being alone or refuse to change dirty clothing. Others may become almost mute, sleep most of the time,repeat suicidal and depressing thoughts, or show no reaction to stimuli.
Caregivers and researchers have found that there are several triggers that tend to increase anxiety in alzheimer's patients including: over stimulation such as noisy, busy, active environments that confuse the mind through excess perceptions; frustrating tasks that involve sequential steps; medication changes or illness; and unfamiliar environment (hospital aor trip).
Most caregivers find that it helps to live in the patient's reality and don't argue or insist on rationalizing and explaining in detail. Try to distract the person with a move to another room, a mock phone call, food, another person entering; or ask "Please help me...." ...using extreme courtesy or giving the impaired person implied authority.
Bring your ideas and concerns to the next Alzheimer's Association support group meeting, the second Monday of each month at Statesboro First Methodist Church...we meet in the 2nd floor library of the downtown church at 1:30pm.
Family caregivers are encouraged to attend and to contact the Alzheimer's Association regional office at 1-800-272-3900 in Savannah at 201 Television Circle, Savannah, 31406.
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