Five Lesser-Known Symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Coping Strategies
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in America and is responsible for 60% to 80% of dementia cases. Contrary to popular belief, the disease is not a normal part of aging—although getting older is a risk factor. Symptoms worsen over time and there’s no current cure, but treatments are available to slow the impact of symptoms, and research continues to be conducted.
Along with treatments, here are some simple coping strategies for five lesser-known symptoms to help improve the quality of life for you and your loved one suffering with Alzheimer’s:
1. Problems with Sleeping
People with Alzheimer’s typically have a difficult time during the evenings. Around dinnertime, he or she may become agitated and worried. They may pace a lot, lash out, or may be aggressive towards others. This type of restlessness is called “sundowning” and may result in trouble getting your loved one to sleep.
Coping tips for sleep problems:
- Limit naps.
- Try to get your loved one to exercise daily.
- Limit caffeine consumption.
- Use nightlights.
- Plan activities that use more energy during the day.
- Try to have the individual go to sleep at the same time every night.
- Set a peaceful mood by reducing noise and dimming the lights.
Your loved one may believe that others are mean, unfair, or lying to them and may become fearful, jealous, and suspicious of others. Their paranoia is linked to their memory loss. For example, when they forget where they put something, they may believe someone is stealing from them. Or when they forget who you are, they no longer trust you because they believe you’re a stranger. Paranoia can get worse as memory loss increases.
Coping tips for paranoia:
- Don’t argue with him or her.
- Reassure your loved one that he or she is safe.
- Gently touch him or her to show you care.
- Try not to react if the person blames you for something.
- Keep extras of important items just in case they are lost.
- Distract them with something sentimental like a photograph.
Alzheimer’s patients tend to wander away. Know how to limit wandering to keep your loved one safe, prevent him or her from getting lost, and to provide you with contentment with regard to your loved one’s safety.
Coping tips for wandering:
- Ensure your loved one carries identification or a medical bracelet.
- Let your neighbors and local police know that your family member has Alzheimer’s disease.
- Keep a recent photo of your loved one in case you need to help the police find them.
- Keep your doors locked and consider a keyed deadbolt on your front and back doors.
- Install a system that alerts you when the door opens.
4. Rummaging and Hiding Items
Your loved one may start rummaging through cabinets, closets, drawers, or your refrigerator to find something specific, such as food, out of boredom. They may also start to hide things around the house. Try not to get upset, but instead, try to understand the cause.
Coping tips for rummaging and hiding:
- Lock up dangerous or toxic products.
- Remove spoiled food.
- Lock up valuable items.
- Keep the sufferer from going into unused rooms.
- Search the house to learn the hiding spots. Check them often.
- Keep all trash cans covered. Alzheimer’s patients may forget their function and rummage through them.
- Create a special place for the sufferer to rummage and hide things.
5. Intimacy Problems
Intimacy, the special bond we share with those we love and respect, may change due to Alzheimer’s because the disease can affect the sufferer’s personality. Intimacy includes the way we talk and act towards our family, friends, and spouses. The sufferer can become clingy or completely forget their feelings for you all together.
Coping tips for intimacy issues:
- Reassure the Alzheimer’s patient that you love him or her, will keep them safe, and that you care.
- Talk about your concerns with a support group.
- Focus on the positive parts of the relationship.
- Explore new ways of spending time together.