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Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

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When Alzheimer's Affects More than Memory

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Alzheimer's disease often begins with memory loss. But over time, it can lead to other mental, emotional, and physical problems.

You’ll want to know what to expect and be ready with solutions that will help your loved one with Alzheimer's if they have any of the following issues.

Recommended Related to Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's and Sleep Problems

People with Alzheimer’s disease go through many changes, and sleep problems are often some of the most noticeable. Most adults have changes in their sleep patterns as they age. But the problems are more severe and happen more often for people with Alzheimer’s.  You might notice that your loved one: Sleeps a lot more than usual, including taking naps during the day. This is common for people in the early stages of the disease. Has trouble falling asleep or wakes up a lot at night. When...

Read the Alzheimer's and Sleep Problems article > >

Agitation and Aggression

People with the disease may act anxious or get upset easily. When they feel this way, they may fidget, shout, throw things, or even try to hit other people. To help them:

Keep his 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 physically bother 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 even and your emotions steady.

Bladder and Bowel Problems

People with Alzheimer's may have trouble controlling their bathroom needs. 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 as it gets closer to bedtime.

Depression

It’s understandable, and common, for someone with Alzheimer’s to feel depressed, especially soon after he learns he has the disease. Antidepressant drugs may help. Other things that also help include:

  • 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. To help prevent that:

  • 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.
  • Make 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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