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Alzheimer's - It Steals A Person's Mind

Aug 17, 2007
All too often, people who suffer from Alzheimer's disease tend to become verbally or physically aggressive and abusive. This results in problems not just for them, but also those around them. It happens not just with patients suffering from Alzheimer's but from other forms of dementia too. How can a patient who is suffering himself from a disease that confuses him be helped when he turns on the very people who can help him? All too often one finds these patients raving and ranting about everything and sometimes deteriorating to physical aggression as well. The pathos lies in the fact that they don't usually know what they are doing.

A study that spanned 5 states was done on patients who suffered from this condition and were nursing home residents. The study involved 100,000 patients, with an age averaging over-80. The study was undertaken in homes that had federal funding and looked for symptoms that might be contributing to this aggressive behavior. The findings revealed that the ones who were physically aggressive suffered from depression, hallucinations, delusions and constipation. The ones who resorted to verbal abuse had all these symptoms except constipation.

Since physical aggression was a major problem and constipation seemed to be a problem with most of who suffered from, the question was: whether it was related to physical aggression. If so, was it the constipation or the medication that caused the constipation that was to blame? The uniqueness of the study was the fact that for the first time, researchers were looking at physical symptoms as well rather than the psychological ones for answers.

The immediate solution would, of course be to add a lot more fiber to the patient's diet and to increase the intake of water. Many patients tend to lead a sedentary life with the onset of the disease even though they may have been leading very active lives before that. If the patient could be coaxed into doing more exercise, that would also help in easing constipation. The medications the patient is taking should also be checked to see if they are causing constipation. Sometimes antidepressants could bring on the condition.

What would also be worth looking at is whether the physical aggressive behavior is triggered off by the medication in the first place. Some drugs, especially antipsychotic ones have rather serious side effects. Sometimes, it's just a question of decreasing the dosage. The reasons for such behavior could well lie in triggers that are external and may not be a manifestation of the disease itself. Sometimes, sheer boredom could be the cause. Whatever it may be, it would be worth probing the causes so it makes for better lives for both the patients as well as the ones looking after them.

As regards the psychological aspects related to the disease, counseling both the patients and caregivers could help. In many cases, medical prescriptions might be the only option to treat delusions, hallucinations and depressive symptoms. If care could be taken to monitor the dosage so an optimum one is reached where relief is felt without serious side effects, that will be the ideal solution.
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