Alzheimer’s: Struggling to Understand Behaviors


A program is coming to the area on Thursday, July 27 to help people whose loved ones experience the behaviors of Alzheimer’s disease.

In Kentucky alone it is estimated that 70,000 individuals have Alzheimer’s disease and 271,000 people are their caregivers. 271,000 caregivers are dealing with strange behaviors that they may not know how to deal with.  Wandering, hallucinations, paranoia, aggression, shadowing, the exaggerated use of curse words.  These are just a few of the many behaviors that can accompany a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia.  What causes them? What can we do about them?

What caregivers do not always understand is that these behaviors communicate messages from our loved ones because of the inability to verbalize their wants, needs, and feelings and because the person with the disease now has a reality all their own.  Many caregivers think that their loved one is being difficult on purpose, but in reality, their loved one is having a very difficult time.  Rather than being defensive when blamed for something by their loved one, it is much better to apologize, even if the caregiver did nothing wrong. It can quickly ease the situation.

Wandering may often communicate boredom, hunger or thirst or even a need to go to the bathroom.  Sudden changes in behaviors may be linked to changes in the person’s routine or an infection.

What should caregivers do when their loved ones experience these behaviors? Put on your detective hat.  Detect and connect.  Join their reality.  What might be causing the behavior?  Look at the physical needs of the person. Is the person hungry, thirsty, or need to go to the restroom? Is the person sick? Once  these needs have been ruled out look at the environment. Has the person’s routine changed? Is the person overstimulated? Is the person stimulated enough?  What are the person’s emotional needs?  How does the situation feel to your loved one? Try to identify the feelings behind the behavior of your loved one.”   

To learn more about behaviors, join in on a Telehealth program: Management of Behavioral Symptoms in Dementia that will be offered from 6:30-8pm EST on Thursday, July 27th at the following locations:

  • Appalachian Regional Hospital in Harlan
  • Letcher Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation in Whitesburg
  • Pikeville Medical Center in Pikeville
  • Manchester Memorial Hospital in Manchester
  • UK Center for Excellence in Rural Health in Hazard
  • McDowell ARH

This program is offered through an interactive telemedicine system to connect with persons who are impacted by Alzheimer’s disease and related memory disorders, providing education and supportive services across the state of Kentucky.  A panel of experts from the University of Kentucky Sanders Brown Center on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association will answer audience questions.  This event is free and open to the public.  To register, please contact Hardin Stevens at 859-323-2997 or by July 20th.


About the Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association is the world’s leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. It is the largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research. The Association’s mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Its vision is a world without Alzheimer’s. Visit or call 800.272.3900.


UK Sanders Brown Center on Aging

The University of Kentucky Sanders-Brown Center on Aging (SBCoA) basic and clinical scientists work together to improve the health of the elderly in Kentucky and beyond through research dedicated to understanding the aging process and age-related brain diseases, and education, outreach and clinical programs that promote healthy brain aging.

Over the past three decades, SBCoA has flourished and has emerged as one of the nation’s leading centers on aging. Major foci of the Center are basic and applied research in Alzheimer’s disease and related neurodegenerative disorders.  Visit or contact 859.323.6040.