A common struggle caregivers experience while caring for Alzheimer’s patients is misunderstanding the patient’s needs and desires. People with Alzheimer’s have trouble verbalizing what they need, which can result in screaming and shouting. For a caregiver, the challenge is to identify the need and find a solution. Although it can be stressful to pinpoint the cause, especially if the screaming continues for long periods of time, it’s important to stay calm and address the issue as best you can. With kindness and an understanding tone, you can help ease your loved one’s discomfort, and hopefully resolve the issue. Here are some of the reasons why people with Alzheimer’s scream and shout — and some steps you can take toward handling their behavior.
8. Communicating a Need
As previously mentioned, a common reason why people with Alzheimer’s scream is because they’re trying to let you know they need something. When trying to figure out what that is, start with the basics: are they hungry? Thirsty? Too hot? Is a favorite comfort item just out of reach? In some cases, the screaming may be in response to something that may be frightening them. Look around the room to see if there is something in particular that may be disturbing them.
Disorientation is all too common for loved ones with Alzheimer’s. With the confusion brought on by their disease may come other restless feelings. Your loved one may be afraid that they will somehow miss out on an important event, such as missing meal time, or a visit from a family member, or a favorite TV show. In these instances, you can help your loved one by talking with them and assuring them that they haven’t missed anything.
6. Stimulation Levels
Another potential reason why a person with Alzheimer’s is yelling and screaming may be due to being either under-stimulated or over-stimulated. Maybe your loved one is yearning for more activity, or maybe too many things are going on around them and it’s upsetting them. If more activity is needed, you can try turning on the TV or setting a radio to play softly in the background. DVDs or CDs might serve as a convenient solution. If there seems to be too much activity going on, turn off any unnecessary devices, or try moving your loved one to a quiet room with less visual or auditory stimulation.
Alzheimer’s can bring with it a significant feeling of loneliness, even when your loved one is surrounded by people. When this is the case, screaming and shouting can be a plea for company and familiarity. As a caregiver, you can ease this feeling of isolation by making sure you’re frequently speaking to them, even if they are unresponsive. Explain what you’re doing as you move about the room so your intentions and actions are clear. Reinforce your presence with physical touch on the hand or shoulder, which can have a calming effect. This can be particularly important if the person has vision or hearing deficits. If your loved one is in a nursing home, try placing them near other people. Maybe they can handle being in the dining room with other residents, or move them near the activity of the nurses’ station, and encourage other staff members to engage them in conversation.
As your loved one experiences more and more changes brought on by their disease, their level of anxiety may increase, which may lead to bouts of yelling and screaming. Their surrounding environment may seem strange, and they may start to fear that anything can happen. Do your part to soothe their fears and reassure them. Try to create a comforting environment filled with items that elicit feelings of happiness. Consider putting up photos of your loved one’s family members on the wall where they are clearly visible. Sometimes, pets like cats or dogs can also help calm their anxiety.
3. Health Problems
As any caregiver knows, it becomes incredibly difficult to diagnose a loved one’s health problems when they lose the ability to verbally communicate. Screaming may become their way of indicating that they’re experiencing a health issue. They might be screaming because their vision or hearing is deteriorating, which can be frightening them. If you can’t identify the cause, consider scheduling a health checkup, and have their hearing and vision tested.
2. Pain or Physical Discomfort
Similarly, when a person with Alzheimer’s experiences pain, screaming and shouting may be their only way of letting you know. Again, determining the cause may be difficult. Watch for the physical movements and facial expressions that accompany their screaming for clues. Maybe they’ve developed a new bruise that might need attention. If your loved one screams during showering or dressing, maybe some of their limb movement is causing arthritic pain. When all else fails, consult your loved one’s doctor.
As a loved one with Alzheimer’s is further pulled away from what was their normal life, they become increasingly more inclined to suffer from severe boredom. They may eventually deal with this boredom by yelling and screaming. To combat this, try to keep them involved in what’s going on. Interact with them, and make sure you’re not ignoring them by simply talking over them. Maybe you can offer them tasks that replicate normal household activities. For people who are mobile, folding linen or pairing socks can provide a familiar focus. Walking around the building or outside is another great way to create engagement and an outlet for energy. For people who spend time in a bed or wheelchair, it might comfort them to flip through books and magazines.
Identifying an Alzheimer patient’s needs can be difficult, especially when they resort to yelling and screaming, but there are steps you can take to help deal with the issue. The problem won’t always be straightforward, and some issues will be easier to fix than others. But by taking time to try and understand the cause of the problem and working toward finding a solution, you can help ease your loved one’s troubles, and help them live more comfortably.
The Alzheimer's Site is a place where people can come together to support those whose lives have been affected by Alzheimer's disease. In addition to sharing stories of hope and love, shopping for the cause, and signing petitions, visitors can take just a moment each day to click on the purple button to help provide care for those living with Alzheimer's disease and research for a brighter future. Visit The Alzheimer's Site and click today - it's free!