Jul 18, 2018

Can You Change Patterns of Behavior in Dementia Patients?

People living with Alzheimer's and dementia are well known for their challenging and often difficult behaviors.

People living with Alzheimer's and dementia are well known for their  difficult behaviors.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

What can you do about it?

Listen Now or Continue Reading Below

How to Change Patterns of Behavior in Alzheimer's and Dementia Patients

The following articles broaden the scope of the podcast; and, should help you to deal with the difficult behaviors you are dealing with each day.

1. 7 Ways To Deal With Difficult Behavior Caused By Alzheimer's and Dementia
Persons living with Alzheimer's or a related dementia are well known for their challenging, often difficult, behaviors.

2. How Can Alzheimers and Dementia Caregivers Deal with Difficult Behavior | This is an Excellent Article
What you have expressed about your emotions and frustrations about taking care of your Mother who suffers from dementia, I've heard so many times before.

3. Dealing with Difficult Behavior Caused by Alzheimer's Dementia
I often get asked questions about how I dealt with my mother when she engaged in difficult to manage behaviors.

4. Dementia Care - Routine and the Importance of the First Action of the Day Room
In the beginning my mother, who lived with dementia, would wake up with a scowl on her face, a negative attitude, and would often seem less there - like she was out of it memory wise.

5. Afraid of Making the Wrong Move?
Few of us cast into the role of Alzheimer's caregiver have training or experience in dealing with the many difficult decision we face each day.

6. A Pet Shop for Dementia Patients Improves Happiness and Behavior
This Pet Shop is really just an room that I designed to look like a place where cats and dogs would live.


How to Change Patterns of Behavior in Alzheimer's and Dementia Patients

Did you ever think to yourself, "I wonder if I could replace the bad patterns of behavior that are driving me crazy with new positive patterns of behavior?" I did.

I wonder if Alzheimer's caregivers think about patterns of behavior when it comes to caring for someone living with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia. Many patients evidence patterns of behavior that drive Alzheimer's caregivers nuts or worse.

Patterns — all Alzheimer's patients evidence patterns of behavior. Some of the patterns are simple, like asking over and over, "What day is it?" Others are more complex. One reader told us her husband was shaving four times a day, and his face was getting raw. Other patients pace. The list goes on and on.

My mother was evidencing all kinds of patterns of behavior, doing the same crazy things, at the same time of day or night, over and over. At approximately 9:37 pm at night, my mother would get up and announce that she needed to start cleaning the house — I'm talking every night. Imagine trying to explain to someone living with Alzheimer's that it is nighttime and you don't clean at bedtime. I'm not sure how many times I did this — more than I want to remember. It didn't work; explaining doesn't work.

My mother would wake up at 1:29 in the morning, at 4:29 in the morning. Each and every time, I would get out of bed, stand back and watch her do it. I did not [inaudible 01:32] intervene because I had learned that was not helpful and would only make things worse. After a year or so, I finally started to understand why she was doing this.

After a year or so of reading research about Alzheimer's disease and dementia, I came to a conclusion: exercise was important — an important variable in caring for someone with Alzheimer's.

So what I did was enroll my mother in gym class for the first time, when she was 87 years old. At first, I put her in a seniors class — it's called Silver Sneakers. That helped.

One day, I decided to put her on a treadmill. She resisted, but she did it. Then something started to happen that changed our lives. My mother would start walking on a treadmill and at the 6th minute 36th second mark, she would bend over like she was going to fall. However, her feet kept moving, so I just let her go. At the 7th minute mark, she would stand back up straight and start walking. This happened every single time and it amazed me. But there was a clearly defined pattern — patterns of behavior.

I came to a conclusion — through observing patterns — that most Alzheimer's patients have patterns. And some of these patterns are good and some are bad.

I also realized, secondly, that most people without Alzheimer's have patterns of behavior. In other words, we do the same things, around the same time of day, over and over.

Patterns of behavior bring homeostasis into our lives. Having well-defined patterns of behavior brings comfort, organization, and a sense of stability into our lives. The fact that we live a life of patterns also helps explain why most of us don't like change and why we resist change.

I thought to myself, "What if I could change my mother's bad patterns of behavior and channel her energy into something more positive? Change the bad patterns into something good."

I decided to introduce an entirely new set of behaviors and actions into our lives. Over time, I introduced one new behavior after another until we reached the point where our days were organized in a way that made each day very similar to the one that came before it. Our day had a very well-defined pattern and so did our daily actions and activities.

In other words, we got into a routine — just like you're in a routine in your life and I get into routines in my life.

Here's an example of how it worked: Instead of waiting for my mother to ask me, "What day is it?" — meaning, what day of the week — I put the newspaper in front of her each morning and I asked her, "What day is it?" Then, '"What is today's date?" She would read this to me from the top of the newspaper.

Over the years, I cured my mother of meanness, getting up in the middle of the night, urinary incontinence, and the dreaded bowel movement problem. I did this by introducing new patterns of behavior and new tools into our daily equation.

Did you know the Alzheimer's Reading Room contains more than 5,000 articles and has been published daily since July, 2009? The website is designed to help caregivers deal with the problems they face each day.

Need Help? Search Our Award Winning Knowledge Base for Answers to Your Questions About Alzheimer's and Dementia

You are reading and listening to original content from the Alzheimer's Reading Room

The Alzheimer's Reading Room operates for the benefit of society and the Alzheimer's community.

We help Alzheimer’s patients to live a better life. We accomplish this by providing excellent advice and practical solutions to the problems that caregivers face each day. Our solutions work and have been tested over time by millions of caregivers.

The Alzheimer's Reading Room is the publisher of the highest quality expert information currently available for the Alzheimer's those seeking information on: Alzheimer's care, dementia care, memory care, and for caregivers and dementia professionals.

The goal of the Alzheimer's Reading Room is to Educate and Empower Alzheimer's caregivers, their families, and the entire Alzheimer's and dementia community worldwide.

The Award Winning Alzheimer’s Reading Room Knowledge Base is considered to be the highest quality, deepest collection, of information on Alzheimer’s and dementia in the world.