Monday, August 20, 2012

Personality Changes Alzheimer’s Disease

As your loved ones Alzheimer’s progresses, you may notice that they go through big personality changes. One of the most common is they become more aggressive and tend to shout and become physical with you and your family members. Seen more often in men with Alzheimer’s than women, this behavior often occurs suddenly, with little warning and no apparent reason.  Because it is probably difficult to understand where your loved one is coming from, it’s easy to become frustrated, but patience and understanding is necessary to calm him or her down and find out why they are so upset.

Aggression can be caused by several factors including physical discomfort, poor communication or an uncomfortable environment.  When your loved one becomes aggressive, try to get to the source of their anger to see if you can make them more comfortable and less upset.  Are they tired because they haven’t been sleeping well?  Are the medications they’re taking causing side effects that make them angry or ill?  Does it seem like they’re experiencing physical discomfort and pain? 

Take note of environmental factors that could be making your loved one uncomfortable.  Are there a lot of loud noises or people in the room?  Do they look lost or confused?  These feelings are enough to make anyone annoyed, but for a person with Alzheimer’s it can be particularly overwhelming and cause an angry outburst.  They may also be frustrated because of their lack of ability to communicate with you.  Keep your instructions simple and don’t ask too many questions or state too many things at once.  Are you acting negatively to towards them or are you irritable yourself?  Your loved one may be picking up on your own aggression.

The best way to respond to the aggression of a person with Alzheimer’s is to remain calm, patient and understanding.  Try to identify the cause and focus on their feelings, not the facts.  They may not be able to distinguish between wrong and right and may be confused about what really happened.  Don’t take their behavior personally and try to remain positive and reassuring.  Suggest a different, relaxing activity and limit their distractions so they can concentrate on remaining calm. 

During an aggressive outburst, it’s important to assess the situation and the danger involved, both for your loved one and yourself.  If he or she is acting out physically, stand back and call for assistance. If they’re trying to run away, be more assertive and make sure they remain in the house.  Unless absolutely necessary, avoid using force or restraint because your loved one may become more upset and physical.  The anger does not normally last very long and will only be escalated by equally aggressive behavior.

Brian Willie is an elder law attorney from Orange County CA who has taught thousands of Alzheimer’s families how to pay for the devastating cost of Alzheimer’s care without going broke. You can learn more at

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