How to Deal with Personality Changes in Your Loved One

symptoms of alzheimer's diseaseWhen you think of Alzheimer’s disease, you typically associate the loss of cognitive functions, like memory and judgment. While the loss of these are very much symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, another very challenging issue for family members or caregivers is the changes in personality your loved one may face.

Because Alzheimer’s is a disease of the brain, it causes nerve cells in the brain to die which can change how a person acts and reacts to certain situations. As the disease progresses, the symptoms tend to worsen as well. However, it’s important to remember that your loved one will have good days along with the bad.

Personality and Behavior Changes due to Alzheimer’s

Understanding the personality and behavior changes your loved one may go through as part of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease is important for learning how to correctly cope with these changes. Some of the common personality changes that may occur are:

  • Easily becoming worried or upset.
  • Acting disinterested in events or conversation.
  • Showing signs of depression.
  • Pacing often or even wandering away from home.
  • Displaying signs of aggression or violence, like hitting or biting.
  • Delusions or hallucinations; imagining things that aren’t really there.
  • Hiding things from you or accusing you of hiding things.

In addition to these changes, you might notice that your loved one may stop bathing or caring about how he or she looks. He or she may wear the same clothes for several days in a row, or wear inappropriate clothing for the time of year (like wearing a thick sweater during the summer or shorts during the winter).

Besides the changes in the brain, there are certain other triggers that could affect the personality or behavior of someone with Alzheimer’s disease. For instance, your loved one may simply feel anxious and confused, or sad and scared. Health issues such as lack of sleep or new medications can cause personality changes. Your loved one may have problems with his or her environment, like it’s unfamiliar, too loud or interrupting a routine.

Coping with Personality Changes

As a caregiver, it’s important to remember that the disease is causing these personality or behavior changes in your loved one, and to try not to take anything your loved one says personally. Your loved one is not purposely trying to hurt your feelings.

Remember to keep things simple for your loved one. Don’t overwhelm them by asking several questions at once, or try to argue or reason with the person; use redirection as much as possible. If you get angry or frustrated, count to ten and take a few deep breaths until you have calmed down. Try to focus on your loved one’s feelings rather than your loved one’s words. If you’re concerned about wandering, find a safe place for your loved one to walk.

If a behavior becomes serious, like your loved one is displaying signs of aggression or hallucinations on a regular basis, talk to a physician about your concerns. There are medications that can help treat these symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

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