Knowing the Signs: Agitation Related to Alzheimer’s Dementia

Memory issues remain a hallmark association of AD. Yet, behavior issues are among the most troublesome and stressful. Over 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, and up to 90% experience verbal or physical agitation. It can come out of nowhere and impact a patient’s ability to remain in the home long term. Do you know the signs? Find out what they are and how you can cope if your loved one has agitation related to Alzheimer’s.

Behavioral Changes- What to Look For

AD causes the progressive destruction of brain cells, and this is the primary cause of the agitation. As the disease worsens and advances through the various stages, so do the patient’s personality and behavioral symptoms.

  • Early Stages
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Irritability
  • Later Stages
    • Anxiety and agitation
    • Aggression and anger
    • General emotional distress
    • Verbal or physical outbursts
    • Restlessness, pacing, shredding tissues, or paper
    • Hallucinations
    • Delusions
    • Sleep issues and worsening behaviors later in the day (sundowning)

Anyone experiencing any of these symptoms should talk with their doctor immediately. They can do a complete evaluation to rule out any other potential causes. Certain medications, environmental influences, and several medical conditions are other known causes of agitation and worsening of their symptoms.

Coping and Helpful Treatments

Alzheimer’s related agitation isn’t a purposeful action but is often the result of the patient’s inability to communicate clearly. Coping takes patience and understanding by learning how to respond to agitation to avoid potential triggers.

  • Identify the Cause
    • Physical discomfort– Check for pain, hunger, thirst, sickness, fatigue, etc.
    • Environmental triggers– Loud noises, physical clutter, and too many people can cause stimulation overload and trigger behaviors.
  • Response
    • Remain calm, positive, and reassuring
    • Help them relax by trying a calming activity
    • Take a break and have a moment to yourself after ensuring everyone is safe
    • Try something else to switch focus
    • Seek assistance from others if you are unable to calm them down or keep everyone safe

Caregiver walking elderly woman with cane on path, Alzheimer's with agitation, clinical research

Off-label medication options may help improve symptoms when coping techniques fail to yield results after consistent application. Off-label means the drug has FDA approval, but for another medical condition. It’s a common practice for diseases that lack a treatment developed specifically for it and approved by the FDA. Patients and caregivers should discuss the risks, benefits, and specific symptoms to target with their doctor.

Easing the frustrations of Alzheimer's with agitation, AD research, older woman comforting upset older man

If you or someone you love has agitation symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, clinical research studies may be an option. Potential new treatment options are being investigated right now in clinical research studies. To learn more about our Alzheimer’s related agitation studies here at Core Clinical Research, call us today (425) 443-9551, or view additional details on our website.

References:

https://www.verywellhealth.com/tips-on-responding-to-agitation-in-dementia-97642

https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/treatments/treatments-for-behavior

https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/stages-behaviors/agression-anger

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