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Teaching Strategies

Managing Behaviors Associated with Alzheimer's Dementia: A Non-Pharmacologic Approach


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Overview of Teaching Strategy

Behavioral disturbances are seen in up to 50 percent of individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer's dementia. This is especially the case in those over 85 years of age (Jeste, et al. 2008). The middle stages of the disease are frequently the time when these behaviors are highlighted. The behavioral symptoms associated with Alzheimer's dementia are often the source of issues ranging from basic safety to caregiver burnout. Agitation is frequently the catalyst for seeking treatment or seeking placement options. There are currently no pharmacological interventions approved to treat the behavioral disturbances associated with dementia, however medications are frequently the go-to intervention to treat behavioral issues. Using non-pharmacologic interventions can be effective tools in managing the behaviors and ultimately optimizing quality of life for all involved.

The term agitation itself creates a wide variety of interpretation. What may be identified as problematic to one practitioner may be tolerated by another. It is widely known that any transition can be a trigger for behavioral disturbances in the client diagnosed with Alzheimer's dementia. In addition, the disturbance of physical needs, environmental issues, unmet needs, and mood disturbances can initiate agitation. Developing an understanding of the etiology of the behaviors is the initial step in intervening. Additionally, developing a comfort level and subsequently a tool box in managing the behavioral disturbances frequently seen in dementia are imperative to favorable outcomes.

This teaching strategy looks at the evolving knowledge pertaining to the non-pharmacologic treatment of clients diagnosed with Alzheimer's dementia. It helps students recognize behaviors and start to assess the etiology of the disturbances as the first step in management to provide optimum quality of life.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Develop an understanding of behaviors associated with Alzheimer's dementia.
  • Develop an understanding of the etiology of the behaviors.
  • Articulate an assessment of behavioral disturbances vs. aggressive behaviors.
  • Recognize the risks associated with caregiver burnout and behavioral issues.
  • Create a toolbox of approaches to intervening with the client demonstrating behavioral issues related to Alzheimer's dementia.
  • Better understand the use of standardized tools in evaluating both behaviors and the etiology of behaviors.
  • Articulate possible safety concerns as they pertain to the behaviors discussed.
  • Explore situations involving common behavioral issues with Alzheimer's dementia.

Aces Essential Knowledge Domains

  • Complexity of Care
  • Individualized Aging
  • Vulnerability During Transitions

Aces Essential Nursing Actions

  • Assess Function and Expectations
  • Use Evolving Knowledge
  • Coordinate and Manage Care
  • Make Situational Decisions
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