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Managing Behaviors Associated with Alzheimer's Dementia

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Managing Behaviors Associated with Alzheimer’s Dementia: A Non-Pharmacologic Approach Teaching Strategy

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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 

ACE.S Knowledge Domains 

  • Individualized Aging
  • Complexity of Care
  • Vulnerability During Transitions 

ACE.S Essential Nursing Actions 

  • Assess Function and Expectations
  • Coordinate and Manage Care 
  • Use Evolving Knowledge

NLN Competencies for Graduates of Nursing Programs

  • Nursing Judgment
  • Spirit of Inquiry

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