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Thoughtful Responses to Common Difficult Behaviors Due to Alzheimer’s

Individuals living with Alzheimer’s benefit from calm and thoughtful responses to difficult behaviors.

Alzheimer’s is a complex condition that often presents overwhelming issues for those providing care. As the disease continues into later stages, those with Alzheimer’s become increasingly dependent on communication through behavior rather than speech, and oftentimes these behaviors are of an inappropriate nature. For instance, someone with more advanced Alzheimer’s disease may present the following:

  • Combativeness and agitation
  • Inappropriate sexual behavior such as: 
    • Getting undressed or touching himself/herself in public
    • Utilizing crude or obscene language
    • Jealous accusations that a spouse is having an affair
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression

These common difficult behaviors due to Alzheimer’s disease can be embarrassing or disturbing for family caregivers, but they may also be extremely confusing and difficult for the individual exhibiting them, as he or she probably doesn’t understand why the behavior is regarded as inappropriate or why it is upsetting to others.

As an Alzheimer’s caregiver, it’s vitally important to remember that any distressing behaviors the senior displays are the result of the disease — or perhaps other health issues or medications — not a representation of the person’s character. Also, often what seems like sexually inappropriate behavior is really a manifestation of a non-sexual need, such as a need to use the bathroom or a need for closeness.

If you are unable to identify a reason for the individual’s behavior, considering the following solutions:

  • Redirect the senior to a favorite hobby or activity, such as listening to music or looking at a family photo album.
  • Calmly, but promptly, find a private area, like a bathroom or changing area, if the older adult begins to undress in public.
  • React to feelings of lonesomeness or a need for closeness with a nurturing pat or a hug and comforting conversation. 
  • Increase the amount of exercise or physical activity the senior is engaging in.
  • Explore functional solutions. For example, for inappropriate undressing, provide adapted clothing created with fasteners in the back for this specific reason, or try putting trousers or dresses on backwards. 

When reacting to concerning behavior:

  • Respond quietly and in a matter-of-fact manner. Disagreeing with or embarrassing the person can exacerbate the situation; try to be gentle and patient.
  • Do not overreact in either direction. Providing too much affection may encourage unwanted sexual behavior, while shouting or shaming may frighten or confuse the person even more.
  • Change the environment, whether it is a new setting that does not allow for the behavior to be a cause of concern, or a new activity that redirects from the behavior altogether.

For more assistance managing the challenging behaviors of Alzheimer’s exhibited by someone you love, contact CareFor at (512) 338-4533. Our caregivers are extensively trained and experienced in creative, effective dementia care practices, and we’re here to help whenever you need us. Our professionals can provide a free in-home consultation to discuss options for Alzheimer’s care in Bee Cave and surrounding areas. See our full service area.