Caring for a Person with Alzheimer's Disease: Your Easy-to-Use Guide from the National Institute on Aging

Words to Know

Aggression (uh-GRESH-un). When a person lashes out verbally or tries to hit or hurt someone.

Agitation (aj-uh-TAY-shun). Restlessness and worry that some people with AD feel. Agitation may cause pacing, sleeplessness, or aggression.

Alzheimer's disease (AD) (ALlz-high-merz duh-ZEEZ). Disease that causes large numbers of nerve cells in the brain to die. People with AD lose the ability to remember, think, and make good judgments. At some point, they will need full-time care.

Anti-anxiety (an-tye-ang-ZYE-eh-tee) drugs. Drugs used to treat agitation and extreme worry. Some can cause sleepiness, falls, and confusion. These drugs should be taken with caution.

Anticholinergic (an-tye-KOL-in-er-gik) drugs. Drugs used to treat stomach cramps, incontinence, asthma, motion sickness, and muscle spasms. These drugs should not be given to people with AD.

Anticonvulsants (an-tye-kon-VUL-sunts). Drugs sometimes used to treat severe aggression.

Antidepressants (an-tye-dee-PRESS-unts). Drugs used to reduce depression and worry.

Antipsychotics (an-tye-sye-KOT-iks). Drugs used to treat paranoia, hallucinations, sleeplessness, agitation, aggression, and other personality and behavior disorders. These drugs should be taken with caution.

Assisted living facility. Type of living facility that provides rooms or apartments for people who can handle most of their own care, but may need some help.

Caregiver. Anyone who takes care of a person with AD.

Clinical trial. Research study to find out whether new medicines or other treatments are both safe and effective.

Constipation (kon-sti-PAY-shun). Trouble having a bowel movement.

Continuing care retirement community. Community of homes, apartments, and rooms that offer different levels of care for older people.

Deductible (dee-DUK-ti-bul). The amount of medical expenses that a person must pay per year before the insurance company will cover medical costs.

Dehydration (dee-hye-DRAY-shun). Condition caused by lack of fluids in the body.

Delusions (duh-LOO-zhuhns). False beliefs that someone with AD believes are real.

Diarrhea (dye-uh-REE-uh). Loose bowel movements.

Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Form. Document that tells health care staff how the person with AD wants end-of-life health care managed.

Durable Power of Attorney for Finances. Legal permission for someone to make legal and financial decisions for the person with AD, after he or she no longer can.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. Legal permission for someone to make health care decisions for the person with AD, after he or she no longer can.

Hallucinations (huh-loo-suh-NAY-shuns). One possible effect of AD, in which the person sees, hears, smells, tastes, and/or feels something that isn't there.

Home health care. Service that provides care and/or companionship in the home for the person with AD.

Hospice services. Services that provide care for a person who is near the end of life and support for families during this time.

Hypersexuality (hi-pur-sek-shoo-AL-uh-tee). Condition in which people with AD become overly interested in sex.

Incontinence (in-KON-ti-nunts). Trouble controlling bladder and/or bowels.

Inpatient facility. Hospital or other medical facility where people stay in the facility.

Intimacy. Special bond between people who love and respect each other.

Living trust. Legal document that tells a person called a trustee how to distribute a person's property and money.

Living will. Legal document that states a person's wishes for end-of-life health care.

Multivitamin (mull-tee-VYE-tuh-min). A tablet, capsule, powder, liquid, or injection that adds vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional elements to the diet.

Myoclonus (mye-o-KLO-nuss). Condition that sometimes happens with AD, in which a person's arms, legs, or whole body may jerk. It can look like a seizure, but the person doesn't pass out.

Nursing home. Home for people who can't care for themselves anymore. Some have special AD care units.

Paranoia (pare-uh-NOY-uh). Type of delusion in which a person believes—without good reason—that others are being unfair, unfriendly, or dishonest. Paranoia may cause suspicion, fear, or jealousy in a person with AD.

Sexuality. Important way that people express their feelings physically and emotionally for one another.

Spirituality (SPEAR-uh-choo-al-ity). Belief in a higher power or in larger forces at work in the world. Going to church, temple, or mosque helps some people meet their spiritual needs. For others, simply having a sense that larger forces are at work in the world helps meet their spiritual needs.

Sundowning. Restlessness in a person with AD that usually starts around dinnertime or in the evening and may make it hard to get the person to go to bed and stay there.

Urinary tract infection (YUR-in-air-ee tract in-FEK-shun). An illness, usually in the bladder or kidneys, caused by bacteria in the urine.

Will. Legal document that tells how a person's money and property will be divided after his or her death.

Publication Date: July 2012
Page Last Updated: September 16, 2014