Navigating Personality Changes in Alzheimer’s

Care - senior woman with home caregiver

Learn to recognize and manage personality changes in Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease causes damage to brain cells that contributes to memory loss and cognitive difficulties. The disease can also bring about a variety of drastic changes in a loved one’s personality and behavior. These changes affect not only the individual with dementia but also their loved ones. It is beneficial for family caregivers to recognize the common personality changes in Alzheimer’s and to develop strategies to help manage them.

Common Personality and Behavior Changes

The changes happening in the brain can affect how people with Alzheimer’s behave. As the disease progresses, these changes may become more apparent, or new behaviors may be observed. Some common personality changes in Alzheimer’s include the following:

  • Being more easily agitated, worried, or upset
  • Losing interest in activities
  • Hiding items or rummaging through things
  • Being paranoid or seeing things that aren’t really there
  • Misunderstanding things
  • Wandering from home or away from a caregiver
  • Experiencing changes in intimacy, including a loss of interest or increased interest in sexual behaviors
  • Aggression or hitting others
  • Losing interest in appearance, bathing, and dressing

Other circumstances may contribute to changes in behavior as well. External stimuli, emotions, and uncomfortable physical sensations may further lead a person to behave differently. Some of these factors include:

  • Emotions such as sadness, stress, or anxiety
  • Illness, pain, or other health-related problems
  • Medication side effects
  • Physical sensations such as hunger, thirst, or digestive issues
  • Lack of sleep
  • Overstimulating noise or confusion
  • Frustration when trying to complete tasks

Tips for Managing Personality and Behavior Changes

The National Institute on Aging recommends the following suggestions to help family caregivers cope with personality and behavior-related changes due to Alzheimer’s:

  • Speak calmly and simply. Ask or say one thing at a time.
  • Keep a daily routine that is predictable.
  • Provide reassurance that the loved one is safe and that you are there to help.
  • Avoid arguing or trying to reason with the person.
  • Focus on the individual’s feelings rather than their words or actions.
  • Don’t show your own anger or frustration. If needed, take a break, leave the room briefly, or practice some deep breathing exercises until you feel calmer.
  • Stay positive, and use humor.
  • Try playing music or singing as a distraction or to help soothe the individual.
  • Provide comforts, such as a safe walking area, sturdy shoes, snacks, and water, for people who pace.
  • Ask the person to help you with tasks.

Ask For Help

It can be beneficial to talk with the senior’s physician about changes in behavior or personality. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, there may be medications to help slow the progression of the disease or other recommendations for managing difficult behaviors.

Professional home care services can help family caregivers take much-needed breaks from caring for a loved one. This respite care allows family caregivers to focus on their own needs and wellbeing, so they can feel refreshed before returning to caregiving. In addition, a professional caregiver specially trained in Alzheimer’s and dementia care can help an individual through mind-stimulating activities, engagement and social interaction, and assistance with managing behaviors.

At Visiting Care Giving Services, our mission is to improve the quality of life for people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia and to provide support for their families. To learn more about our St. Charles home care and services in the surrounding areas, contact us online or at (636) 493-9058.