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Managing Complications of Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease often begins with memory loss. But as the disease gets worse, it can cause many other mental, emotional, and physical problems.

Here are some ways to deal with the problems that your loved one with Alzheimer's may face.

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What Is Early-Onset Alzheimer's Disease?

You forget things. It’s not just the occasional name or date, or misplaced keys, but people and events that have been part of the fabric of your life. Sometimes the way home from work doesn't seem familiar. You go in the kitchen to make dinner and can't follow the recipe. You've gotten some notices on your electric or water bill, after years without a late payment. But you're in your late 40s, so it couldn't be Alzheimer's disease, could it? It might. These things can sometimes happen to anyone,...

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Agitation and Aggression

People with the disease may act anxious or get upset easily. When they're feeling this way, they may fidget, shout, throw things, or try to hit other people. To keep your loved one calm:

Keep their surroundings quiet. Background noise, like sounds from the TV, can upset or confuse him.

Settle into a routine. Changes in his environment or his daily routine, such as travel or visits from guests, can make him agitated.

Check for things that are physically bothering him. Pain, fatigue, or needing to use the restroom could make him unsettled or trigger an outburst.

Stay calm. If he gets upset or angry, don’t argue with him or criticize. Try to keep your voice calm and your emotions steady.

Bladder and Bowel Problems

People with Alzheimer's tend to have trouble controlling their bladder and bowels. That's especially true as the disease gets worse. To prevent and manage accidents:

  • Take your loved one to the restroom every few hours.
  • Be aware of signs he needs to go, including fidgeting and clutching clothing.
  • When you're away from home, know where the restrooms are.
  • Encourage him to drink less fluid close to bedtime.

Depression

It’s common for someone with Alzheimer’s to feel depressed, especially soon after he learns he has the disease. Antidepressant drugs may help. Other things also can make him less likely to get depressed, such as:

  • Regular exercise
  • Spending more time around other people
  • Staying busy with hobbies and activities he enjoys

Falls

The disease causes coordination problems that make people more likely to lose their balance and fall, which can cause serious harm. To help prevent falls and injuries:

  • Encourage regular exercise, especially early in the disease, to help your loved one keep up their balance and strength.
  • Remove objects that are easy to trip on, such as loose rugs or extension cords.
  • Be sure stairways have at least one handrail.
  • Place non-skid strips in the bathtub and on smooth floors.
  • Install night-lights.
  • Place easy-to-see stickers on large windows and sliding-glass doors to make it obvious that something solid is there.

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