Individuals with Alzheimer’s face side effects that can negatively influence their emotions. By understanding the disease’s full impact, caregivers can minimize the frustration and fear that often accompanies dementia.
Understand why it happens
It’s important to remember that Alzheimer’s alters the mind in ways that, at times, prevents people with dementia from controlling their feelings and actions. As Alzheimer’s progresses, common activities that someone once performed with ease may now cause him or her to experience moments of fear and anger.
For their part, caregivers should be mindful and avoid taking those emotional surges personally. Instead, try to remember that outbursts stem from the disease, not the person. From that perspective, you can concentrate on helping the individual properly deal with distress.
Tasks that seem easy for most of us—such as opening a door or putting on a sweater—might be difficult for people with Alzheimer’s. Therefore, caregivers should strive to make the lives of those with dementia as simple as possible. Simplicity can be achieved in a number of ways.
First, avoid assigning tasks that might cause the person unnecessary frustration. Finding tasks that require limited instructions—and for which there is no time urgency—helps prevent agitation.
Next, when instructions are needed, speak slowly so as not to overwhelm with too much information at once. And speak in a calm and friendly tone. Remember that someone with Alzheimer’s is likely feeling confused and anxious—or experiencing low self-esteem.
Finally, learn to sense when the person in your care is getting tired. Even simple tasks seem difficult when someone is fatigued. And, for those with dementia, being tired adds even more pressure to perform.
When it’s clear that someone with Alzheimer’s has become frustrated, caregivers should actively attempt to change the person’s mood.
Even the simplest actions—providing snacks such as cookies or ice cream, for example—can ease irritation. Moving to a different room also helps. Other ideas for alleviating negative emotions include reminiscing, having conversations about the person’s interests, and partaking in his or her favorite activities.
When efforts to reduce frustration do not work, caregivers must remember that safety must always come first. When especially agitated, those with Alzheimer’s may resort to hitting or lashing out in other ways that endanger themselves or their caregivers.
Caregivers must be prepared for these situations. Firearms, knives, and other harmful weapons should be locked away at all times.
If a situation gets out of control, caregivers should immediately call 911.
Live in the moment
Caring for a family member or loved-one with Alzheimer’s can be challenging. It’s important for a caregiver to be aware and mindful of the person’s emotional state. As Alzheimer’s progresses, the disease causes more and more frustration and anger. While you cannot remove those feelings altogether, you can take steps to improve some moments and, in the process, provide the person you’re caring for the best quality of life possible.