Understanding and Managing Mood Swings in People with Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s is a dreaded disease, primarily because it is irreversible and tends to progress gradually. Although it is more common among people in their senior years, it can also affect people in their 40s and 50s. There are even some patients who are still in their 30s. Alzheimer’s is a problematic disease because it is characterized by a decline in perception, language skills, memory and physical functions. It can also lead to mood swings, something that does not only affect the individual himself but also the people around them.
Contrary to what some people believe, Alzheimer’s Disease is not really the result of aging. However, people who age are at a higher risk of developing it. Already, around 10% of the people over 65 living in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s and half of those who are 85 years old and older may already have the disease.
Mood swings in Alzheimer’s
Patients with Alzheimer’s disease experience some very difficult mental, emotional and even physical challenges. Although gradual, the onset of the disease may appear as memory loss and a decline in certain cognitive abilities. In its early stages, the symptoms could appear mild. However, over time the disease progresses and patients may begin suffering more intense and more prolonged bouts in mood swings.
The reason behind this can be attributed to the feelings of frustration and agitation that patients with Alzheimer’s experience as a result of the symptoms they begin to suffer from. For example, a patient trying to remember a simple thing – someone’s name, his home address, a task that used to be automatic – can cause him to feel anger and annoyance.
As the disease progresses, so will the incidences and the severity of the symptoms. The result: mood swings.
Treating mood swings in people with Alzheimer’s
If a person suffers from Alzheimer’s, mood swings are to be expected. However, there are ways to help a patient manage these symptoms. A few steps you can take:
People with Alzheimer’s have to struggle constantly with forgetfulness and the strong emotions that come as a result. Difficult tasks, for example, such as those that involve multiple physical and mental efforts, are frequently the cause of mood swings. Instead of allowing the patient to suffer from frustration and agitation, it would be helpful to schedule these tasks during the time of day when the person is most calm and in a good mood.
For people who have Alzheimer’s, having established routines can be very helpful. This will help eliminate confusion and predictability, two factors that often lead to mood swings. The more familiar the tasks are to the person, the easier they will be to perform.
The most basic functions in a person with Alzheimer’s can decline steadily over time. Abilities can even change on a daily basis. Caregivers should allow flexibility into the routine and adapt new or other tasks and activities if necessary.
One of the causes of mood swings among those who have Alzheimer’s is their struggle with the complexity of tasks or activities. It would help if tasks are simplified and choices are limited. Having too many choices can make it difficult for an Alzheimer’s sufferer to decide. By reducing the number of things or actions a person has to choose from or perform, a patient wouldn’t have to think too hard or too long, which helps prevent feelings of agitation.