In Alzheimer’s disease (AD), significant numbers of nerve cells in the brain die, affecting patients’ ability to remember things and to think clearly — resulting in confusion, behavioral changes and diminished communication skills. As life expectancy increases, it is expected that more and more people worldwide are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

The sooner a person is diagnosed with AD the better, for both the patient and his or her family, allowing for appropriate treatment and for necessary care planning.

An Alzheimer’s diagnosis – now what?

An AD diagnosis can leave people feeling lost and hopeless. However, many are resources available to help patients cope with the disease and to assist them in staying active, in caring for themselves, and with making their own decisions for as long as possible.

It is important to remember that it is the disease itself that behind a patient’s forgetfulness, confusion or odd behavior. The person does not change, and each person with Alzheimer’s may not have the same problems or exhibit the same symptoms to the same degree.

Among the challenges facing people with AD and their caregivers — resources that may help — are:

Changes in communication skills

People with Alzheimer’s often have difficulty communicating or verbalizing because of problems with memory and critical thinking. It is difficult for them to find appropriate words, and they may easily forget what they want to say or do.

Such difficulties can tax a caregiver’s patience. Here are some suggestions for dealing with problems with communication:

  • Making eye contact to get the patient’s attention, or calling them by name often
  • Being aware of “body language”
  • Encouraging conversations
  • Using other methods to communicate with the patient, such as guiding them by touching them softly, or going for a walk in the neighborhood

Changes in personality and behavior

As brain cells die, the brain works less well, leading to changes in behavior and sleeping habits, as well as hallucinations, paranoia, agitation, and aggression. Some days can be worse than others.

Some ways for caregivers to deal with changes in personality and behavior include:

  • Keeping things simple, doing one thing at a time
  • Having a daily routine, so that the patient feels in a comfortable, familiar environment
  • Making the patient feel safe
  • Focusing on a person’s feelings and emotions, rather than words
  • Trying not to argue, or show anger or frustration
  • Using humor whenever possible
  • Using distractions, such as music, singing, and dancing
  • Having a bedtime routine
  • Limiting caffeine

Changes in intimacy and sexuality

Alzheimer’s affects intimacy between people, changing the way a person talks and acts toward another. People with AD can become stressed by the changes in their memory and behavior, and the caregiver upset by the demands of caregiving.

Alzheimer’s patients need to feel that they are loved and cared for, and need to spend time with other people as well.

Some suggestions to cope with changes in intimacy and sexuality include:

  • Talking with healthcare providers
  • Taking part in a support group
  • Concentrating on the positive aspects of a relationship
  • Finding simple ways to show affection, such as massaging, holding hands, dancing, and hugging

ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.