In "Elegy for Iris," John Bayley tells of his enduring love for novelist Iris Murdoch as she sank into Alzheimer's disease. When she'd insist on wearing socks while swimming or would constantly ask, "When are we going?" he was flexible and inventive in his responses. Now research confirms what Bayley knew instinctively: Caretakers can do a lot to lessen Alzheimer's behavioral symptoms without using medications.
Delusions, aggressive behavior, agitation, repetitive behaviors, wandering, loss of inhibition or vocal outbreaks may be triggered by everything from overstimulation (too many people, too much noise or activity) to physical pain, such as arthritis. Determining a behavior's trigger and removing it can be life-changing for the person with Alzheimer's disease as well as for the caregiver. Here are some examples of how caregivers have modified behaviors:
Night after night, an 84-year-old mom would go into her daughter's bedroom complaining she was frightened. Solution: Daughter left a night light on in her bedroom and installed a white-noise machine to block out "mystery" noises that might be upsetting.
Grunts and sighs punctuated an 80-year-old man's dinner-table conversation, upsetting everyone in the household. His daughter-in-law suspected that he was in pain. Solution: An exam revealed he had nerve pain in his feet that were made worse when he sat on a wooden chair. A cushion and a footstool have made his dinner appearances much calmer.
These examples show how small adjustments can have big payoffs for everyone. You'll be surprised at the improvements you can make happen.
The You Docs Mehmet Oz, host of The Dr. Oz Show and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic are authors of YOU: Losing Weight.