When Alzheimer’s turns violent
Nathan Batalion, Global Health Activist, Healingtalks Editor
(Healingtalks) CNN Health asked the iReport community how they experienced the challenges of Alzheimer’s. Some described being cursed, kicked, slapped and bitten by their loved ones, who cannot understand their actions because of their disease.
Extent of the problem
Alzheimer’s patients are often vulnerable and fragile and 5-10% of Alzheimer’s patients exhibit violent behavior. It’s unclear why the outbursts occur in certain patients and not in others. “If you don’t understand what’s happening because your brain is not functioning, it can be scary,” said Beth Kallmyer, senior director of constituent services at Alzheimer’s Association. “It’s normal human behavior. You might act out, become agitated, or violent if you don’t know what’s going on.” Caregivers are often overwhelmed. They may deny the problem, although aggressive behavior often reoccurs.
Examples of violent incidences
In 2008, a 74-year-old Kentucky woman with Alzheimer’s shot her daughter-in-law with a gun hidden in the home. A Connecticut woman was fatally beaten with a hammer by her 85-year-old husband, who had Alzheimer’s. The violent behavior leaves caregivers conflicted about their own safety.
Conventional Advice for Alzheimer’s caretakers
The conventional Alzheimer’s experts offered the following advice:
- Back down. Most of the time, the incident escalates when the patient does not want to do tasks such as undress, brush teeth or bathe. “No one ever died from not bathing,” said Geri Hall, advanced practice nurse at the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. “Relax and calm down about it. If the patient means no, they mean no, and you have to heed that.” Patients lose their ability to reason, so don’t try to negotiate. Try again later when the person’s mood has improved.
- When the patient is upset, apologize — even when it’s not your fault. “You apologize because the patient is upset,” Hall said. Using this strategy will buy you time and good will. Don’t argue with an Alzheimer’s patient, because you can’t win. Don’t physically force the person to do anything, she warned. This could worsen the situation and possibly injure all parties involved.
- When the patient becomes agitated, change the topic. Move to another room to see the birds or something he or she usually enjoys. Talk about something the person enjoys while remaining calm. “If you can stay calm, you can mirror that calmness back to them,” Kallmyer of the Alzheimer’s Association advised.
- Keep in mind that the world is distorted for an Alzheimer’s patient. The patient is sensitive to noise and easily fatigued. “They become exhausted trying to follow on a day-to-day basis,” Hall said. “Without a rest period, it’s like you didn’t get a toddler to nap. They are increasingly irritable and they are confused late in the day. That’s called a sundown syndrome — when they may become agitated and aggressive.”
- Call for help.Call 911, if the patient or you are at risk for injuries. When a patient sees a uniform, he or she is likely to feel reassured about his or her safety, Hall said. _______________________________________________________________________________
The above is good advice when dealing with anyone who has a form of mental illness.
At the same time I so strongly believe Alzheimer’s disease is preventable, treatable, and in some cases reversible that I am writing a groundbreaking book on the subject. But those writings divert from the conventional mantra that , like most chronic ills, for Alzheimer’s disease nothing can be done but the giving of toxic drugs and the preparing of the patient for another profitable venue, the nursing home industry. Nathan Batalion CTN See our post Alzheimer’s Disease: Stepping Back Into the Light.
Based on an article published by CNN 3/30/2011
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