Alzheimer’s Disease: Changing the Person You Knew

Confusion, memory lapses, and inability to do things that used to be easy, are some of the sad but familiar aspects of Alzheimer’s disease. Less familiar are the personality changes that can appear.

The once loving parent who becomes distant or hostile, the mother who used to be calm and kind but now has an explosive temper, the father who now unexpectedly becomes violent, may be experiencing changes to the brain that turns the familiar loved one into a stranger.

They may not know who you are now. They may not like who you are now.
This can happen slowly or quickly. Either way, it’s distressing for family members who don’t know what’s happened to their family. It may not be possible to stop these changes but being aware of possible triggers and avoiding them can make life more bearable for all concerned.

A person with Alzheimers may have trouble sleeping, or may be living with pain. They may be dealing with medication side effects. Urinary tract infections among the Alzheimers community is more common than you might think.

Noise, too much activity around them, too much sensory stimulation, or being rushed, can kick off aggression or hostility in the person with Alzheimers.

Try to avoid too many people talking at once, or giving too many instructions that the individual may have trouble following. Make a point of not asking too many questions at once, or asking questions that they’re having trouble answering.

If the person with Alzheimers is saying things you know are not true, if they think things are going on that you know really are not, try to suppress the tendency to challenge their reality.

As far as possible, go with it, or ask questions to get a better idea of where they are at. Their feelings are more important than the facts in these situations.

It can be heartbreaking to have a once-loving parent turn on you or dismiss your existence.

It can help to keep in mind that this is not something they’ve chosen to do, the effects of the disease on the brain are beyond their control too. And depending on how much awareness remains for them, they may also be finding it confusing and frightening.