Treating Agitation in People With Alzheimer's Disease
There are a number of behavior problems associated with Alzheimer's disease. These include depression, paranoia, wandering, hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there), restlessness, irritability, uncharacteristic cursing, threatening language, and confusion. These problems can interfere with normal daily activity and sleep and may increase the risk of harm to the person with Alzheimer's and his or her caregiver.
Often, agitation is triggered by a change in environment, fear, or fatigue. Other times, it's triggered by an infection or another medical problem. Therefore, it's important to receive a medical evaluation to look for treatable causes of agitation.
The Oscar-nominated movie Away from Her portrays a long-married
couple struggling with Alzheimer's disease and the emotional toll it causes when
the wife, played by actress Julie Christie, gives her affection to another man
whom she meets in a nursing home.
This heart-wrenching and emotional dramatization of Alzheimer's brings home
the difficulties families face when a person's ability to recognize and
maintain relationships gradually declines -- especially when the relationship
If a medical problem does not exist, then the agitation can be managed using medication and simple behavioral techniques to simplify the patient’s routine and distract them from the stress that caused the problem.
Medications often used to treat agitation include:
Antipsychotics. Medicines used to treat paranoia and confusion are called neuroleptics or antipsychotics. Examples of these medicines are Haldol, Risperdal, Zyprexa, Clozaril, Geodon, and Seroquel. Side effects can include drowsiness, rigidity, and unusual movements.