Alzheimer’s disease is a complex medical condition that often brings with it overwhelming issues for those who are providing care. As the disease continues into later stages, those with Alzheimer’s increasingly communicate through behavior as opposed to speech, and oftentimes these behaviors can be inappropriate in nature.
For instance, an older adult with more advanced Alzheimer’s disease may present inappropriate Alzheimer’s behavior, such as:
- Combativeness and aggression
- Unacceptable sex-related behavior such as:
- Getting undressed or touching himself/herself in public
- Utilizing vulgar or obscene language
- Jealous claims that a spouse is having an affair
- Clinical depression
These types of behaviors can be awkward or distressing for family caregivers, but they can also be very confusing and aggravating for the older person with Alzheimer’s, as he or she most likely doesn’t understand why the behavior is viewed as inappropriate or why it is upsetting to others. If you are a primary caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, there are ways to handle challenging behavior that can make things less distressing for everyone involved.
As an Alzheimer’s caregiver, it is important to bear in mind that any distressing behaviors the senior displays are the result of the disease — or perhaps other health concerns or medications — not a reflection of the person’s character. Also, often what seems like sexually inappropriate behavior is really an expression of a non-sexual need, such as a need to use the restroom or a need for closeness.
If you cannot figure out a reason for the senior’s behavior, try these reactions:
- Redirect the person to an enjoyable hobby or activity like listening to music or looking at family pictures in a photo album.
- Calmly, but immediately, find a private area such as a bathroom or changing area if the senior begins to undress in public.
- Respond to feelings of being lonely or a need for being close with a kind pat or a hug and calming conversation.
- Try increasing the level of exercise or activity the senior is engaging in.
- Consider practical solutions; for inappropriate disrobing, purchase special outfits designed with fasteners in the back for this specific reason, or try putting pants or dresses on backwards.
When reacting to inappropriate Alzheimer’s behavior:
- Respond calmly and matter-of-factly. Disagreeing with or embarrassing the senior can exacerbate the situation; try to be gentle and patient.
- Never overreact. Offering too much affection may encourage unwanted sexual behavior, while yelling or shaming may frighten or confuse the person further.
- Discover a change in “scenery”, whether it is a new environment that does not allow for the behavior to be a reason for concern, or a new activity that redirects from the behavior altogether.
For further assistance with managing the difficult aspects of dementia for someone you love or for information on senior care in Pasco, Washington and the surrounding area, contact Home Care Solutions. Our caregivers are specially trained and experienced in creative, effective dementia care techniques, and we’re here to help whenever you need us.