Alzheimer’s disease, like other forms of memory loss and dementia, is generally diagnosed by recognizing a series of symptoms. Some of these symptoms include: confusion, inability to recognize common things, loss of appetite, mood swings, inability to create new memories, sundowning and other indicators. Sometimes it’s difficult for caregivers and doctors to recognize the difference between specific types of dementia, since symptoms can cross diagnoses.

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Tim Tholen, CEO and Founder of Thoughtful Health Care and its affiliates in Kansas City hosted experts  Michelle Niedens, Licensed Social Worker, and the director of My Alliance for Cognitive Health, a community-based program focused on early detection, provider partnerships, and education and Eric Vidoni, PT, PhD, Director of the Outreach, Recruitment and Education Core for the University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Center and a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Neurology at the University of Kansas Medical Center. ​

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Being a caregiver of someone who requires 24/7 care is tough under any circumstances. Add in dealing with confusion, aggression, sundowning, wandering, and all the other behaviors that go along with Alzheimer’s disease, and it’s not a wonder why as an Alzheimer’s caregiver, you may be sleep deprived.

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Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is a 24/7 job. It’s also both physically and emotionally demanding. So it’s no wonder that Alzheimer’s caregivers frequently find themselves stressed. And many caregivers end up neglecting their own health by not getting enough sleep, proper nutrition, exercise, and down time. Here are some things you can do to manage Alzheimer’s caregiver stress:

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Repetitive behaviors (e.g., doing or saying the same thing over and over) are common in people who have Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia. Some repetition can be attributed to short-term memory loss (i.e., the person simply can’t remember what he or she just did or said). Other causes may include anxiety, frustration, insecurity, or an attempt to communicate a specific need or thought.

Whatever the cause, repetition can be annoying and/or frustrating for Kansas City Alzheimer’s caregivers. Here are some things you can do that may stop repetitive behaviors:

  • Look for a cause. Is there a specific need that isn’t being met? Does the person with Alzheimer’s need to go to the bathroom? Is he or she in pain? Is there too much noise? Is the person trying to tell you something?
  • Stay calm. If you’re caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, you need to be a good listener. And it requires patience. Getting upset about repetitive behaviors is only going to aggravate the person more, which could exacerbate the repetitive behavior.
  • Be creative. One evening, my mom kept asking for my dad, who was in the room with her in their Kansas City home. She thought my dad was another guy she’d dated in college, and we didn’t know how to convince her otherwise. So he walked around the block. As he was coming back down the street, my brother-in-law looked out the window and said, “Here he comes now.” When my dad walked in the door, my mom scolded him for not telling her where he was going. He apologized, and that was that.
  • Use reminders. If the person who has Alzheimer’s repeatedly asks the same questions, write down the answers and put them where they can be easily seen.
  • Try distraction. If you can’t find the cause of the person’s repetitive behavior, try engaging him or her in another activity.
  • Answer questions. If the person who has dementia is repeatedly asking the same question, keep answering. But be mindful of the things you shouldn’t say to someone with Alzheimer’s.
  • Get help. If you need help with Alzheimer’s home care, or just need some temporary respite, you may want to enlist the help of a Kansas City home care agency that specializes in Alzheimer’s and dementia care.

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Communication is difficult for people who have Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia. It’s also not easy for someone who doesn’t have Alzheimer’s to communicate with someone who does. Here are some tips that might help improve communication between people with dementia and their friends and family members and/or caregivers.

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