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Dealing With Mood Disorders and Behavior Changes in Alzheimer's Patients

By Denise Clark

 Re-Published with permission by AgingCare.com - the Community for Caregivers

People afflicted with Alzheimer's disease find it increasingly difficult to deal with constant changes brought about by every stage of the disease. One of the most alarming changes that occurs in many Alzheimer's patients are mood and behavior swings that cause a great deal of alarm and concern in family members involved in the care giving process.

Understanding the different behaviors and mood changes that can often be expected during various stages of Alzheimer's progress enables caregivers and their loved ones to deal with such incidents with calm compassion and understanding.

Understanding Difficult Behaviors

For many caregivers, sudden changes in mood and behavior are startling and disturbing.  For example, a daughter who heretofore has dealt with the parent who has a history of gentle behavior, excellent etiquette and intellectual speaking patterns may be horrified to find her mother issuing expletives or making rude and hurtful comments on a daily basis when agitated. 

Other caregivers may deal with increasing situations in which arguments over everything cause tension and stress in family members as well as increasing agitation in a loved one.  By improving our understanding of what may cause such mood swings and behavior problems, family members and caregivers can learn how to not only tolerate some of these behaviors, but also head them off before they occur.

What Causes Mood Changes

Complicating medical problems as well as drug reactions may often cause changes in behavior and moods. In such situations, it is important for the caregiver to remain calm and not to provoke situations that may lead to outbursts or incidents. Issues such as fatigue, dehydration, and even constipation may initiate such mood changes in many patients, so watching for physical signs is as important as recognizing emotional ones.

Sudden mood swings and changes in demeanor from cheerful to agitated behaviors may also point to a urinary tract infection or fever. However, one of the most common factors in such incidents of agitation and difficult behaviors expressed by Alzheimer's patients is when instructions are not clear. For many elders suffering from dementia or varying stages of Alzheimer's, following multiple directions or requests at one time may prove overwhelming. Seemingly difficult tasks compounded with any other type of health problems often leads to communication breakdown between caregiver and patient.

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