Alzheimer’s upsets memory, thought processes & speech; also behavioural changes such as agitation, confusion, distress, hallucinations and false beliefs.
We are born unable to do many things and have to learn them. In Alzheimer’s it appears people unlearn these things again, going back to earlier behaviours.
The Film ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ illustrates the unlearning of social inhibitions, which include what is acceptable to say, or what to do, or even being unable to use the bathroom or feed ones-self. (All of which is perfectly acceptable or even cute, in an infant!)
There may be physical reasons for the anxiety state such as infections (urinary tract infections are common in dementia), drug side effects, pain, hunger, thirst.
Feelings remain, even when facts are forgotten
So a happy occasion can be ‘spoilt’ by a sad farewell.
Plan ahead for:
Happy exit strategies – (for example say ‘I’m just going to the loo’)
Explanations for absent folk – (for eg say ‘‘remember he was often working)
Affirming moments – (such as ‘you always were good at jigsaws’)
Reasons to sit rather than follow around – (tell me ‘we don’t want you to conk out’)
Calling someone by the wrong name means that the person knows you are important to them, even though they do not remember exactly who you are. Not knowing your name might mean at that particular time that they have no idea who you are, so tell them.
Situations that can precipitate an anxiety attack:
- Unfamiliar Surroundings
- A task that is too complicated
- Difficulty in Communicating
1. Introduce yourself.
2. Don’t ask questions.
3. Don’t overwhelm them
4. Simplify or calm their environment.
5. Reassure, and show them what they should do.
6. Remove or reduce stress triggers –
- Noise – turn music down or off
- Lighting – switch more lights on or off
- Too many people – take them to a quieter place
7. Change to a more familiar activity or make a cup of tea. Perhaps remove them from the situation and take them for a walk or a car ride.
8. Music can calm and reassure.
9. Talk about hobbies, passions, or subjects that meant a great deal to them earlier in their life.
10. Videos or pictures of events or outings.
11. They might not be able to distinguish dreams from reality. Don’t laugh or call them a liar.
This post is based on work undertaken by Dr. Jennifer Bute a retired GP who is living with the early onset Alzheimer’s Dementia