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Alzheimer's and Dementia, Memory Care

Common Alzheimer’s Behaviors and How to Manage Them

Acting as a caregiver for a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be incredibly challenging. As your loved one progresses through the stages of the disease, behaviors may change, and that means adjusting your care accordingly. Fortunately, there are ways to manage these shifts in behavior. While there are many behavioral changes associated with this condition, here we will walk you through some of the most common, discuss how to manage them and give you a brief overview of the supportive memory care options available from Friendship Village of South Hills.

5 Common Alzheimer’s Behavior Changes

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that as many as 6.5 million Americans age 65 or older are living with some form of dementia. In addition to the difficulties these individuals face, there’s also a significant demand on caregivers. Caregivers can often feel overwhelmed and emotionally, physically and financially exhausted, making it difficult to adjust to every behavior change a loved one is dealing with. 

These are five of the most common behavior changes due to Alzheimer’s.

Memory Loss and Confusion

Memory loss and confusion are frequently associated with Alzheimer’s. In earlier stages of the disease this may be more mild, and can lead to frustration in the person with dementia. As things progress, they may start to forget relationships, names or even the uses of common items.

Anger and Aggression

When you’re caring for someone, it can be surprising when they react with anger or aggression. Whether the aggressive behavior is verbal or physical, it’s important to remember this isn’t intentional or personal. More likely, it’s due to physical discomfort, environmental factors or communication struggles caused by changes in the brain.

Sleeping and Eating Problems

Getting enough of basic necessities such as food, water and sleep can be disrupted by the effects of Alzheimer’s. Eating and drinking can become especially challenging as utensils become difficult to use. Lack of appetite may also be caused by medications that alleviate other symptoms. Further, brain disease can alter the sleep cycle, causing disorientation at night known as “sundowning.”


Wandering is one of the most dangerous behavior changes associated with Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, it’s quite common. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that six in 10 people with dementia will wander at least once. This behavior is often because those with the disease don’t have the ability to recognize familiar places or people.

Hallucinations and Paranoia

Memory loss and brain damage due to Alzheimer’s can cause individuals to become more paranoid and suspicious, and in some cases even lead to hallucinations. Confusion and memory loss can cause a loved one to accuse caretakers of theft or other improper behaviors, while the sensory impacts on the brain may cause them to perceive things that aren’t actually there.

How to Manage Common Alzheimer’s Behaviors

When those closest to you start to experience behavior changes, it can leave you guessing as to how you should respond. Below we highlight strategies for managing each of the five common Alzheimer’s behavior changes.

Managing Memory Loss and Confusion

  • Stay calm and do your best not to show distress or hurt
  • Keep explanations simple and easy-to-understand
  • Utilize photos or other media to remind them of relationships or places
  • Phrase corrections as suggestions so they don’t feel attacked

Managing Anger and Aggression

  • Consider environmental factors like loud noises or large crowds that could be overstimulating
  • Try to schedule appointments and activities at the time of day they’re most alert and aware
  • Communicate with simple, easy-to-understand questions and instructions
  • Make sure the behavior isn’t being triggered by physical pain
  • Try shifting to activities they find relaxing or soothing
  • If you reach your limit, step away for a moment and give yourself a break

Managing Sleeping and Eating Problems

  • Try to stick to a regular schedule of meals, waking up and going to bed
  • Spend time outdoors getting sunlight and exercise
  • Reduce stimulation in the evening hours before going to bed
  • Focus on calming or soothing activities
  • Make sure medications aren’t causing sleeplessness or lack of appetite
  • Limit daytime naps for better sleep at night

Managing Wandering

  • Avoid busy locations that might cause confusion
  • Keep them supervised in new locations and make sure they’re comfortable
  • Use structured activities to keep them engaged
  • Identify when wandering is most common and plan activities during that time
  • Provide reassurance when they’re feeling lost or disoriented
  • Make sure basic needs like food, water and bathroom use are accounted for so they don’t go searching

Managing Hallucinations and Paranoia

  • Acknowledge their feelings and respond in a calm, reassuring tone
  • Find distractions such as moving to a different space or listening to calming music
  • Don’t argue with them or tell them their concerns are invalid
  • Look for environmental sources such as noises or lights that could be altering their perceptions
  • Respond honestly to their questions and don’t discount their reality

Learn About Memory Care at Friendship Village of South Hills

At Friendship Village of South Hills, we understand how challenging it can be to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia. If you feel you may be experiencing caregiver burnout or could just use some extra assistance, our skilled, compassionate team is here to offer support.

We’ll work with you to understand your concerns and your loved one’s needs, and craft a custom wellness plan for your loved one. Contact us today to start the conversation and learn more about the available memory care options at our Pittsburgh-area community.

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