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Ten Tips for Coping with Behavior Changes in Alzheimer’s Patients

If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, the decline you will see in this person is caused by brain cells dying. This changes how a person acts. Some of the common changes in personality and behavior include Getting upset, worried, and angry more easily. Your loved one may act depressed or not interested in things. He may hide things or believe other people are hiding things. She may imagine things that aren’t there, wander away from home, or pace the floors. More extreme ways of behaving may include showing unusual sexual behavior, hitting you or other people, or misunderstanding what he or she sees or hears. You also may notice that the person stops caring about how he or she looks, stops bathing, and wants to wear the same clothes every day.

In addition to changes in the brain, other things may affect how people with Alzheimer’s behave. They may be having health-related problems, including illness, painnew medications, or lack of sleep. Other physical issues like infections, constipation, hunger or thirst, or problems seeing or hearing can affect behavior.

Too much noise, such as TV, radio, or many people talking at once can cause frustration and confusion in Alzheimer’s sufferers. Stepping from one type of flooring to another or the way the floor looks may make the person think he or she needs to take a step down. Mirrors may make them think that a mirror image is another person in the room. For tips on creating an Alzheimer’s-safe home, visit Home Safety and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Caregivers cannot stop Alzheimer’s-related changes in personality and behavior, but they can learn to cope with them. Here are some suggestions for understanding and coping with these changes.

  1. Keep things simple. Ask or say one thing at a time.
  2. Have a daily routine, so the person knows when certain things will happen.
  3. Reassure the person that he or she is safe and you are there to help.
  4. Focus on his or her feelings rather than words. For example, say, “You seem worried.”
  5. Don’t argue or try to reason with the person.
  6. Try not to show your frustration or anger. If you get upset, take deep breaths and count to 10. If it’s safe, leave the room for a few minutes.
  7. Use humor when you can.
  8. Give people who pace a lot a safe place to walk. Provide comfortable, sturdy shoes. Give them light snacks to eat as they walk, so they don’t lose too much weight, and make sure they have enough to drink.
  9. Try using music, singing, or dancing to distract the person.
  10. Ask the patient to help with everyday tasks. For instance, say, “Let’s set the table” or “I need help folding the clothes.”

For problems such as hitting, biting, depression, or hallucinations, talk with the person’s doctor. Medications are available to treat some behavioral symptoms.

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South Mountain Memory Care focuses on high-quality, personalized care. The brand-new building is a stand-alone memory care community, meaning that the entire building, staff, and programs are designed to cater to residents with cognitive issues. To ensure person-centered care and attention, we have accommodations for up to 28 residents. The building is divided into two neighborhoods (wings), each offering 10 private suites and 2 semi-private suites.

South Mountain Memory Care is located in the Allentown suburb of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, and it is easily accessible from the Lehigh Valley, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. For more information, go to

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