The Emotions of Alzheimer's: What Families Should Expect

Your elderly loved one’s Alzheimer’s can turn daily life into an emotional rollercoaster. Sadly, Mom or Dad’s bad moods can’t be helped. The moods are symptoms of cognitive decline and a manifestation of the most common form of dementia. “Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60 percent to 80 percent of dementia cases,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

As the family caregiver, you are going to deal with adverse personality changes in your elderly loved one with Alzheimer's. However, keep in mind the emotions are a manifestation of illness, not the person. Here’s a quick rundown of the moods you can expect:

  1. Anger: The person becomes aggressive from over-stimulation or boredom.

    Be aware of your parent’s environment. Is there too much noise from a TV show or an outside disturbance like ambulance sirens? It’s important to soothe or distract a parent with Alzheimer’s who has become angry. On the other hand, watch out for frustrations due to inactivity. Maybe it’s time to play a favorite song or go for a walk. Either way, keep your cool and never lash out in response.

  2. Confusion: The person forgets how to use technology like a cell phone.

    A person with Alzheimer's progressively loses memory of learned skills. Previously familiar abilities can become confusing. You may be surprised that a routine task like using a cell phone may become too hard. Your elderly loved one gets confused and can't make a call. As Alzheimer's advances, be prepared to assist with more tasks.

    In this case, complete the call or transition to another activity. Under circumstances like these, it’s smart to bring on outside support. A professional caregiver can quickly detect confusion and help solve the problem. Meanwhile, the home care provider will also perform personal care duties like grooming, bathing, driving to the doctor’s office or grocery store.

  3. Fearfulness: The person gets scared of people and environments.

    Alzheimer’s disease can chip away at your elderly loved one's sense of safety. People and places become unfamiliar. The caregiver must provide reassurance in moments of fear. A home care provider can handle many situations with fearful clients. They will promptly work to address any fear or uncertainty. Maybe it's leaving the unfamiliar setting or kindly wrapping up the interaction with the friend.

  4. Anxiety or Suspicions: The person has irrational fears or believes in scenarios that are not true.

    The cognitive decline means the senior can become distrustful of his or her surroundings. He or she may believe in things that aren’t true. When the brain is sick, you can expect lapses in memory and comprehension. It’s a sad and tough reality when your elderly loved one no longer recognizes you.

    You may not be prepared to face such a day, but it could happen as Alzheimer's advances. Your strong emotional attachment to your loved one makes the situation very hard. It's heartbreaking to have to deal with your mom and dad reacting to you like a stranger.

    A home care provider provides assistance while respecting emotional boundaries. The focus is on caring for your elderly loved one without any hang-ups about how your loved one used to be.

  5. Rapid and Persistent Mood Swings: The person gets regularly distressed in the evenings.

    Your elderly loved one may develop tantrums and get disoriented at dinner time. Sundown syndrome can be managed by establishing a night time routine with limited stimulation and a healthy meal. Limit exposure to violent TV shows, radio and other loud noises.

    When you’re preparing dinner for your family, it’s easier to have a reliable professional handle your elderly loved one’s dinner. So consider having the professional caregiver step in. Home care providers can prepare meals and make sure mom or dad doesn’t eat alone. The trained caregiver will also make sure to limit caffeine, other stimulants or alcohol that may worsen mood swings.

  6. Depression: The person withdrawals interest from previously enjoyable activities.

Depression can be a stage of Alzheimer's disease. Adverse personality changes lead to the person becoming more isolated and feeling worthless. The caregiver needs to notice the symptoms and get the doctor to screen for depression. Should your elderly loved one have depression, it's important to find activities that are enjoyable and stimulating throughout the day. Maybe Mom or Dad will have to take medication to help manage the depression. In these circumstances, a home care provider can deliver trusted care. Medication reminders and companionship help keep your elderly loved one from slipping deeper into depression.

How to Deal with Emotions of Alzheimer’s

Managing your loved one’s mood swings will be a challenge, but it's also critical to know your boundaries as a family caregiver. You are under much stress with family, children, a full-time job and your loved one with Alzheimer's. Per the Family Caregiver Alliance, you must learn to accept help from others: “Learn the skills you need to care for the care receiver and which ones you are or are not able to perform...Learn to say ‘no’ to things you cannot do…”

There are a few critical skills necessary for successful Alzheimer's care: patience, compassion and always remaining calm can help comfort your Alzheimer’s patient. The caregiver should also learn to anticipate and avoid triggers to negative emotions.

There will be times when you may feel overwhelmed or defeated. When this begins to happen, you must allow yourself to take regular breaks or stress-reducing activities like taking a walk so that you can recalibrate your own emotions.

Home Care for Alzheimer’s

A professional caregiver enables you to take those needed breaks. You can get peace of mind, especially when retaining a caregiver experienced in Alzheimer's care. These experienced professionals are trained to recognize when mood swings are happening and may even de-escalate the situation. "Knowing how to detect, defuse, and prevent anger is one of the most important skills for Alzheimer's care providers," says Larry Meigs, CEO of Visiting Angels, a leading national home care provider. “It’s one of the skills we value most in our Alzheimer’s caregivers.”

With the right care services, you will be ready for the road ahead. Read more about Alzheimer's care here.

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