by Patricia M. McClure-Chessier
June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month—a time for people of all ages to get involved to fight against the disease. It doesn’t matter if you’re 5 or 95. One of the important facts that should be highlighted this month for anyone that is impacted by this disease is how change can have a tremendous impact on a person with Alzheimer’s or Dementia. The more prepared the family/caregiver is, the better.
The main underlying cause of memory loss and confusion is the progressive damage to brain cells caused by the disease. Sometimes your loved one may remember an important date about one person and not the other. Sometimes they may remember something significant about someone who they aren’t close to, but can’t remember something significant about the caregiver. There is no rhyme or reason in most cases. The human brain is very complicated, and the condition presents other challenges that scientists still cannot fully answer.
Your loved one may even lash out at the person taking care of them for no apparent reason, and the caregiver may not understand the precipitating factors. The person may get upset easily, use bad language, scream, or hurl insults. Your loved one might even throw things, or resist your care by pushing and/or hitting you. This behavior could be a symptom of the disease, or just a response to them feeling confused. Aggressive behaviors can be verbal or physical, occur suddenly, and could be the result of anxiety and/or confusion. While aggression can be very difficult to cope with, it’s important for you as the caregiver to understand that your loved one is not behaving this way on purpose. Behavior is a form of communication. Aggression can be caused by many factors, including physical discomfort, environmental factors, and poor communication.
Environmental factors play a huge role, but are often overlooked. Caregivers have to be careful with making changes in the environment. For example, modernizing a home could create some significant challenges for the person with Alzheimer’s. Changing from a rotary phone to a touch-tone phone could deter the person from using the phone. We have to give a lot of thought to upgrading microwaves, stoves, refrigerators, dishwashers, etc. Changes could have a negative impact on the person’s independence and quality of life. The more they can continue to do for themselves, the better. As caregivers, please consider the impact the change could have on your loved one. Even simple changes can complicate their world, and cause them to regress. So be careful and minimize change!
Award-winning author/speaker Patricia M. McClure-Chessier, (MBA, MPA) is the author of Losing a Hero to Alzheimer’s The Story of Pearl and A Caregiver’s Guide for Alzheimer’s & Dementia Nine Key Principles. She has worked in the healthcare industry for 25 years and is available for presentations. For more information, visit www.patriciammcclure.com or contact Patricia at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.authorbookings.com/members/patricia-m-mcclure