There are two common types of symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s and dementias. The first is cognitive, which has to do with mental functioning.
The common symptoms in the cognitive category are the following:
• Repetition of thoughts/sayings
• Delusions or false thoughts
• Judgement impairments
• Confusion and forgetfulness
• Medication mis-management
The second type is of symptom is more broad, and is related to behaviors or actions. The common symptoms in this group are the following:
• Mood changes
• False accusations
• Hiding things
• Social Withdrawal
• Sexually Inappropriate
• Sleep disturbances
So how does a family member deal with these symptoms and not feel overwhelmed and frustrated? The first thing to remember is that your loved one is not at fault—they are not doing these things on purpose. They are functioning the best they can, just as you are.
Try answering repetitive questions in different ways and redirecting them towards an activity that involves a different subject matter. Plan activities to keep them busy and occupied as much as possible, without frustrating them with complexities they can no longer relate to.
Generally speaking there is no way to manage the cognitive symptoms without a physician visit. But you can manage some of the behavioral symptoms by personalizing your own behaviors. Learn and adapt interventions to best fit your loved one’s personality and preferences. For example if they have difficulty coping in the am, plan activities and outings later in the day. If evening is the most difficult time, spend evenings at home with quieting activities. Don’t over schedule and maintain a journal with their daily routine so any replacement caregivers can easily adapt to your loved one’s schedule rather than the other way around.
If behavioral changes become unmanageable seek the advice of professionals. A Geriatric Care Manager through an agency such as ACM Care, an RN with a specialty in geriatrics, or a Geriatric Physician can help lead you in the right direction. The Alzheimer’s Association also has support groups and additional information to help you on this journey.