Illinois Cognitive Resources Network

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Managing Personality and Behavior Changes in Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease causes brain cells to die, so the brain works less well over time. This changes how a person acts. This article has suggestions that may help you understand and cope with changes in personality and behavior in a person with Alzheimer’s disease.

Common Changes in Personality and Behavior

Common personality and behavior changes you may see include:

  • Getting upset, worried, and angry more easily
  • Acting depressed or not interested in things
  • Hiding things or believing other people are hiding things
  • Imagining things that aren’t there
  • Wandering away from home
  • Pacing a lot
  • Showing unusual sexual behavior
  • Hitting you or other people
  • 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.

Other Factors That Can Affect Behavior

In addition to changes in the brain, other things may affect how people with Alzheimer’s behave:

  • Feelings such as sadness, fear, stress, confusion, or anxiety
  • Health-related problems, including illness, pain, new medications, or lack of sleep
  • Other physical issues like infections, constipation, hunger or thirst, or problems seeing or hearing

Other problems in their surroundings may affect behavior for a person with Alzheimer’s disease. Too much noise, such as TV, radio, or many people talking at once can cause frustration and confusion. 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.

If you don’t know what is causing the problem, call the doctor. It could be caused by a physical or medical issue.

Keep Things Simple…and Other Tips

Caregivers cannot stop Alzheimer’s-related changes in personality and behavior, but they can learn to cope with them. Here are some tips:

  • Keep things simple. Ask or say one thing at a time.
  • Have a daily routine, so the person knows when certain things will happen.
  • Reassure the person that he or she is safe and you are there to help.
  • Focus on his or her feelings rather than words. For example, say, “You seem worried.”
  • Don’t argue or try to reason with the person.
  • 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.
  • Use humor when you can.
  • 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.
  • Try using music, singing, or dancing to distract the person.
  • Ask for help. For instance, say, “Let’s set the table” or “I need help folding the clothes.”

Talk with the person’s doctor about problems like hitting, biting, depression, or hallucinations. Medications are available to treat some behavioral symptoms.

For More Information About Personality and Behavior Changes in Alzheimer’s

NIA Alzheimer’s and related Dementias Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center
800-438-4380
adear@nia.nih.gov
www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers
The NIA ADEAR Center offers information and free print publications about Alzheimer’s and related dementias for families, caregivers, and health professionals. ADEAR Center staff answer telephone, email, and written requests and make referrals to local and national resources.

Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 HelpLine

Courtesy of alz.org:

The Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900) is available around the clock, 365 days a year. Through this free service, specialists and master’s-level clinicians offer confidential support and information to people living with dementia, caregivers, families and the public.

alz.org

Contact the Helpline day or night to:

  • Speak confidentially with master’s-level care consultants for decision-making support, crisis assistance and education on issues families face every day.
  • Learn about the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
  • Find out about local programs and services.
  • Get general information about legal, financial and care decisions, as well as treatment options.
  • Receive help in your preferred language through our bilingual staff or interpreter service, which accommodates more than 200 languages.
  • Dial 711 to connect with a TRS operator.

Our professional staff has the knowledge to address a variety of topics:

  • Memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Medication and treatment options that may delay clinical decline or help temporarily address symptoms for some people.
  • Safety issues.
  • Tips for providing quality care.
  • Recommendations for finding quality care providers.
  • Strategies to reduce caregiver stress.
  • Legal and financial documents for future care.
  • Aging and brain health.
  • Referrals to local community programs and services.

Three ways you can connect with our Helpline:

  1. Call us. We are available around the clock, 365 days a year at 800.272.3900. Dial 711 to connect with a TRS operator.
  2. Chat with us. Click the “Live Chat” green button on this page to connect with a member of our Helpline staff. Live chat is typically available from 7a.m.-7p.m. (CST) Monday through Friday.  
  3. Online. Use this form to let us know how we can help you. We will respond to you within 24 hours.

For more information, visit: alz.org

Infographic: 5 Tips to Help You Stay Motivated to Exercise

Being physically active is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your health and independence as you age. Physical activity can help boost your health and improve your mood. However, even if you know the benefits of physical activity, it’s not always easy to stay motivated to exercise. Keep these tips in mind to help you stay moving:

  • Find ways to fit exercise into your day. You are more likely to get moving if exercise is a convenient part of your day.
  • Participate in activities you enjoy. Be creative and try something new!
  • Make it social. Find a virtual “exercise buddy” to help keep you going and provide emotional support.
  • If there’s a break in your routine, get back on track. Start slowly and gradually build back up to your previous level of activity. Ask your family and friends for support.
  • Keep track of your progress. Make an exercise plan and don’t forget to reward yourself when you reach your goals.

Check out NIA’s infographic for more tips to boost your motivation to exercise.

Which Vaccines Do Older Adults Need?

Photo courtesy of Canva

You might remember getting vaccines as a child. But adults also need vaccines to help prevent certain illnesses. Talk with a doctor or pharmacist about which vaccines are recommended for you.

Vaccines can help protect you, and others, from:

  • Flu (influenza): a virus that can cause fever, chills, sore throat, stuffy nose, headache, and muscle aches.
  • Shingles: a disease that affects the nerves and can cause pain, tingling, itching, a rash, and blisters.
  • Whooping cough (pertussis): a serious illness that causes uncontrollable coughing fits, which can make it hard to breathe.
  • Pneumococcal disease: a serious infection that spreads from person to person by air and often causes pneumonia.
  • Coronavirus (COVID-19): a respiratory disease that causes fever, cough, and shortness of breath and can also lead to serious illness and death.

Learn more about vaccines recommended for older adults.

5 Mealtime Tips for a Person With Alzheimer’s disease

Meals can be a challenging time for people with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. However, there are steps caregivers can take to help make mealtimes successful. Consider these tips:

  • Serve meals in a consistent, familiar place and way whenever possible.
  • Offer just one food at a time instead of filling the plate or table with too many options.
  • Be patient and give the person enough time to finish the meal.

Check out NIA’s infographic to find more tips to make mealtimes easier for a person with Alzheimer’s.

What Types of Care are Available for a Person with Dementia?

A person with dementia will need more care as symptoms worsen over time. Problems with memory, thinking, and behavior often present challenges for those with dementia as well as for their family members. Whether the disease is in early or late stages, there are support systems, resources, and services that can help. Several different types of care are available depending on the level of help or care a person needs:

  • Day-to-day support can be found through adult day centers and respite services. These options provide short-term care for a person with dementia and allow the caregiver to take a break.
  • Long-term care in the home may be provided by unpaid family members and friends or by paid service providers and can involve general care or medical care.
  • Residential care may become necessary as a person with dementia requires more care and supervision than can be provided at home.
  • Hospice services provide end-of-life care and comfort for people with dementia and their families. These services can be received in the home or at a residential care facility, hospital, or hospice facility.

Explore more about the different types of care for a person with dementia.

Use the search engine on our home page ilbrainhealth.org to find support services near you.

Register Now! SIU Dementia Caregiving 101 Seminar

Dementia Caregiving 101

An eight-week session for dementia caregivers to find support and learn more about caring for loved ones with memory loss

Join the Smith Alzheimer’s Center at SIU Medicine for an educational series of what to expect when caring for those with dementia or memory loss.

Starting Tuesday, August 2, Dementia Caregiving 101 is eight weeks long and covers a wide range of topics designed to equip family caregivers of individuals living at home. From communication strategies to planning for the future to caregiver self-care, the class covers different points along one’s journey with dementia and memory loss — see main topics for all eight weeks below.

Attend the sessions that are right for you. Feel free to register for just one week, or all eight. All sessions are on Tuesdays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and are both virtual and in person, however, space is limited. Classes will be held at the Medical Library at SIU Medicine (801 N. Rutledge).

To view and register for each session, please click the link below:

REGISTER FOR DEMENTIA CAREGIVING 101

For more information about the Dementia Caregiving 101 program, please email care@siumed.edu or call 217.545.7204.

New funding opportunities from NIA

Recent funding opportunities and notices

This alert links to all of the Funding Opportunity Announcements and Notices published by the National Institute on Aging at NIH in the previous month, giving researchers and trainees a heads up about what’s new.

Read about the latest NIA Funding Opportunities (published in June 2022) by clicking on the links below:

Notices