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Alzheimer's Disease

Caregiver`s Behavior

05/31/2007

Question:

Can the behavior of an elderly persons caregiver push them further into the confines of Alzheimer`s Disease?

For example, a caregivers persistent badgering to get the person to say something or believe something that isn`t true and constantly screaming and yelling at them. Would this cause the person to want to escape via any means possible?

Answer:

Thanks for the very good question. Definitely our caregivers can struggle at times on how to cope with the changes occurring in their loved one with Alzheimer's disease. Helping caregivers use good communication techniques is an important process in providing quality care for the Alzheimer's patient. If a caregiver is impatient and frustrated about the patient's cognitive deficits or tries to reason with the patient regarding delusions or hallucinations, yes the patient can become more anxious and agitated themselves, as they pick up on the tone and mannerisms of the caregiver. The actions of the caregiver won't necessarily push the Alzheimer's patient further into the disease, but you can see the person with Alzheimer's become more edgy, irritable, possibly more withdrawn, and even more confused as they struggle with the strong negative emotions that the caregiver is expressing.

At times caregivers treat the Alzheimer's person like a child, thinking that if they yell at them or correct them or quiz them, the person's thinking will improve and they will be back to normal. Helping caregivers understand the progressive changes seen in dementia and actually demonstrating for them how to more calmly and patiently communicate with the Alzheimer's patient is vital in hopes of helping the caregiver changes their behavior. If you see a caregiver that is struggling with destructive communication patterns, family members and others around the patient and caregiver need to try to gently intervene and educate the caregiver.

The Alzheimer's Association support groups are a another good source of education too, as families hear how other families are coping as caregivers and often will see that they are not alone and can learn from other caregivers about the benefits of positive communication.

For more information:

Go to the Alzheimer's Disease health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Rebecca A Davis, RN, LISW Rebecca A Davis, RN, LISW
Clinical Research Nurse of Neurology
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University