Published: 21 June 2022
The changes to personality and behavior that people with Alzheimer’s go through are some of the most difficult for caregivers to deal with. It can be tough to see your once-loving mother or father become verbally abusive, for example. Or it could be disconcerting when someone who was always sexually reserved starts making inappropriate advances toward other people. Knowing what you might expect as the disease progresses can help you prepare yourself to handle these changes — and possibly even prevent some from happening altogether.
Anger can be a symptom of Alzheimer's disease. The person with Alzheimer's may feel frustrated and confused and may lash out at others. They might even have angry outbursts, which are a result of the frustration they are feeling, or may be angry because they cannot understand what is happening to them. Sometimes they can become angry because they feel powerless and unable to control their surroundings as much as they would like to.
Delusions are false beliefs that someone holds despite clear evidence to the contrary. People with Alzheimer's may believe that their spouse is an impostor, for example, or that they never knew their children. They may have hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren't there).
People with Alzheimer's also tend to have paranoia—they become suspicious of people around them and accuse others of trying to harm them. They may also accuse others of stealing from them or of hiding their possessions. You may notice this in your loved one when she suddenly stops answering the phone, refuses help from family members who visit regularly and becomes angry at you for doing normal things like cooking dinner or taking her on errands. Paranoia can be very upsetting for everyone involved and it can make life together feel very stressful!
Swearing is a common symptom of Alzheimer's, so it's easy to think that your loved one is cursing at you when they're actually cursing at the TV. If you are dealing with a person who usually doesn't swear and then does so more frequently, this is not necessarily an indication of worsening dementia—it could just be frustration with their inability to get something done or remember something. This behavior can be especially frustrating for caregivers because it can seem like someone who has always been polite is now being rude. But when someone swears out loud due to frustration, he or she may not even realise they're doing it!
Withdrawal and Fatigue
As your loved one’s disease progresses, you may notice changes in his or her personality. Your loved one may withdraw from social activities, family members and friends, work responsibilities and hobbies. You may even find them withdrawing from their own interests in activities that they once enjoyed. These changes can be difficult for you to understand because they are so different from the person you have known for so long.
Takeaway: Most people with Alzheimer’s will experience at least a few of these changes.
There can be many different personality changes as part of the disease process. However, it is important to note that not all people with Alzheimer's experience these changes and that some may only experience one or two. If you notice some of these signs in yourself or a loved one, it’s time to speak with your doctor about them.
If someone close to you has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, it can be difficult to adjust to life after diagnosis. But knowing what’s normal for those who have Alzheimer's and when those behaviors need attention can help both you and your loved one cope better together over time (and caregivers too!).