Signs of Alzheimer's

Behavioral Changes in the Alzheimer’s Patient

The Alzheimer’s Association has established the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer's that is widely accepted within the medical community.

But this list alone does little to help you with the behavioral changes you may be seeing in your loved one.

Maybe you have reviewed this list and are still unsure if your loved one is experiencing Alzheimer's symptoms.

One of the first symptoms is usually short term memory loss. Or maybe you need clarification on Alzheimer’s vs Dementia.

There are, however, some other subtle symptoms that can often be exhibited by people suffering from early onset of the disease process.

Certain medical conditions may mimic some of these signs of Alzheimer's so it is important to have a full medical workup that includes both a physical exam and lab work.

Some of the more common conditions that can mimic Alzheimer's Dementia include:

  1. Vitamin B12 Deficiency

  2. TIA or mini-strokes

  3. Kidney Disorders

  4. Liver problems

  5. Brain Tumors

  6. Thyroid Dysfunction

  7. Depression and Anxiety Disorders

  8. Medication side effects

  9. Folate Deficiency

  10. Alcohol Dementia

As you can see, it is imperative that a full medical work up be completed if you notice any changes in the mental capacity of your loved one.

This is even more important if the symptoms develop rapidly.

The signs of Alzheimer's usually develop slowly and gradually over time, not as a sudden event.

Signs of Alzheimer's and Behavioral Changes

  • Sundowning: Sundowning is a term used to described changes in behavior that are usually, but not always, evident in the early evening hours.

    This may be very confusing if when you talk to mom in the morning she is relatively lucid, but when you call her in the afternoon, she is totally confused and has forgotten you even spoke in the morning.

    Again, talk with your doctor. The timing of certain Alzheimer’s medications can help decrease the sundowning behavior.

    If you know your loved one is worse in the evening than in the morning, schedule activities such as bathing or therapy or doctor’s appointments in the morning.

  • Verbal and Physical Aggression: This can include both physical and verbal lashing out at family and friends.

    It can be very difficult to manage this as a caregiver. And it can be a totally different behavior than you have ever seen by your loved one.

    If you are experiencing these behaviors, please let your doctor know. There are medications that can help some and a caregiver support group can help you through this process.

  • Urinating: You may find that your dad or grandfather is urinating throughout the house in garbage cans or potted plants that are on the floor.

    This is actually a quite common behavior and is believed to occur garbage cans and potted plants can actually look like a toilet to an Alzheimer’s patient.

    There isn’t much you can do but remove garbage cans from plain site and move your potted plants.

    This is not an intentional behavior to irritate you, although it may. It is actually an attempt to urinate in the correct place.

  • Need for increased touch: Like a baby or young toddler, some patients exhibit signs of Alzheimer's like needing more physical touch.

    The best way to provide that is simply to touch them more often. Hold their hand, rub their arm, give lots of hugs.

    Touch is powerful and can be quite soothing. I had a patient that would easily become agitated in the evening but would calm down almost completely if I just sat with my arm around his shoulders, rubbing his back.

  • Child-like or clingy behavior: Sometimes you may feel like you have a two year old again, following you around the house, wanting to know what you are doing, where you are going etc.

    Try to include them in what is going on around them. If they want to follow you around and it is safe, just let them.If it isn’t safe, try to get them involved in a safe activity to give you a few moments of peace. Make them feel useful and included.

    Have mom make a grocery list. Have dad work on a puzzle or football plays. Think back to whatever they enjoyed in life or did as a profession and try to find an appropriate activity.

  • Sexual Overtures: One of the signs of Alzheimer's that can be the most difficult to manage is an increase of inappropriate sexual comments or behaviors expressed by some Alzheimer’s patients.

    As I tried to support family through these changes, I always explained that Alzheimer’s patients sometimes lose their “filter”, that filter that stops you from saying what you are thinking.

    If grampa is suddenly making inappropriate sexual comments, it isn’t that he is becoming a “dirty old man”. It is most likely he has always had these thoughts, but also had that filter that said:

    Think it, but don’t say it.

    Sexuality does not shut off in the aging process. It is totally and completely normal for any senior person to still have sexual feelings and thoughts.

Other common signs of Alzheimer's you may see include seemingly purposeless behaviors, hording and hiding food or money, forgetting to eat, trouble sleeping and more.

Whatever specific challenges you are having, make sure to discuss them with your doctor. If it is a sudden event, it could be related to some sort of infection or medication side effect.

It is also important to remember that as the disease progresses, medication regimens may need to be adjusted based on your loved one’s behaviors.

If you have questions on any specific behaviors that are challenging you, please Contact Me Direclty and I can guide you through specific management techniques that have worked effectively for me through the years.

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