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Agitation: The Other Face Of Alzheimer's


When we think about Alzheimer’s Disease, we most often think about the memory loss. Though that is the most evident symptom of the disease, many fail to recognize that as the condition progresses, the majority of Alzheimer patients experience other  neuropsychiatric symptoms in addition to the memory loss. One such disturbance that is caused by Alzheimer’s dementia is agitation.

What is agitation?

Agitated behavior is used to describe a group of symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease and is defined as any behavior that is considered to be socially inappropriate and that is not a direct result of confusion or need. Such behavior may be:

  • Abusive or aggressive towards self or others (ex. hitting, kicking)

  • An appropriate behavior performed with an inappropriate frequency (ex. asking too many questions)

  • Inappropriate according to social standards

Agitation can be disruptive and cause distress to both the patient and the caregiver and may have major adverse effects on quality of life

What causes agitation?

Agitation can have both medical and situational causes. Medical causes can be disruptive drug interactions or other underlying medical conditions. Situational triggers tend be changes in the person environment such as:

  • change in caregiver

  • moving to a new residence or nursing home

  • travel

  • hospitalization

  • fear and fatigue from trying to live in a now confusing world

Treatment options:

As for most neuropsychiatric symptoms, there are two types of treatment options for agitated Alzheimer’s patients. The first type are behavioral treatments. These are treatment options that seek to influence the patient’s environment and redirect the patient’s attention to alleviate the symptoms. Some helpful hints to deal with agitation are:

  • create a calm environment

  • avoid environmental triggers

  • monitor personal comfort

The following article from the Alzheimer’s Association provides more information on what caregivers can do when dealing with an agitated Alzheimer’s patient: About Agitation and Alzheimer’s Disease.

The other option for managing symptoms of agitation are medication. The most common medication used to treat agitation in Alzheimer’s patients are:

  • antidepressants

  • anxiolytics

  • antipsychotic medications

However, these medications are only effective in treating certain specific symptoms of agitation and even when coupled with behavioral treatment, they are effective only to a certain degree.

The medical community around the world  is working diligently to find new medication that can reduce agitation with improved safety and less side effects such as weight gain, or sleep disturbances. Many promising agents are currently being developed. We are looking forward to more advancements in the treatment of one of the most terrible diseases affecting the aging population today.

For more information about how the Medical Research Group of Central Florida is contributing to the advancement of treatment options for Alzheimer's agitation in Central Florida, please give us a call at (386) 775-7627 or leave us a comment on our Facebook page: Medical Research Group of Central Florida!

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