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How can I calm down someone with Alzheimer's when they're crying?

26 answers | Last updated: Nov 05, 2015
Jeff in Indiana asked...

My mother has Alzheimer's and has been crying a lot. My father is unable to calm her down when the crying spells begin. What can we do to help her with the emotions behind the tears?


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Beth Spencer is a social worker in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with more than 25 years of experience with families who have a member with...
88% helpful
Beth Spencer answered...

I think there are two issues here – the emotions behind the tears and an evaluation for depression. Constant crying is very often a sign of depression which affects people See also:
FAQ: How Do I Know If Someone With Dementia Is Depressed?

See all 1039 questions about Alzheimer's and Other Dementias
with Alzheimer’s at a higher than average rate. If the person had diabetes, we would treat that. With depression, we should also treat it. So the first step is to ask her physician to evaluate her for depression or, a better solution, to send her to a specialist for such an evaluation, which could be a neuropsychologist, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist. Very often when depression is being treated, a person with Alzheimer’s becomes much better able to function and enjoy life again.

With regard to the emotion behind the tears, I usually speak to it directly. I might say, “You seem very sad. Can you tell me what you are sad about?” Give her the opportunity to voice her feelings, if she is able to articulate it. Sometimes people can no longer find the language they need to express what they feel. Then I might say, “It seems like it is hard for you to talk about this. Just know that we love you and care about you.” Simply give her some support verbally and physically as best you can.


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48% helpful
melvinchun answered...

I hade that problem to day it was a misunderstander about her purse it was the same color that the other lady had so I told my wife that wasn't her's and she started to cry that was my first experiance that I had so all I could do was comfort her


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church lady answered...

Dad will work himself up into a lather that he ends up in tears over minor things. We had the doctor evaluate him and put him on a small dose of antidepressants. It worked very well. He will huff and puff when things aren't going his way but no more tears. Sometimes I wish I could see inside his head so I could feel what he's feeling and help him work it out.


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jpreaves answered...

To Jeff in Indiana, My wife cries just as yours does I am sure and almost every morning when she wakes up she is crying. The only way I have found to quiet her down is by sitting beside her and hugging her and telling her that everything is alright.

I used to ask her why she was crying and usually she would tell me she didn't know why. I would think there must be a reason. One day she told me "why can't I just be like everyone else"?

I also believe that when they awake with the crying they are very confused as to where they are, what day it is, and why are you waking me up. Remember, most people with Alzheimer's like to sleep.

My wife is passive........and I am wondering if your Mother is as well. You may never have to deal with a violent Mother. My wife is in the early part of the last stage and shows no signs of anger etc. I was told at one of our best Nursing Homes that only about 40% of their patients need to be in the wing where they put patients who wander or are violent.

Not bad odds to have to live with, huh?



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booda answered...

Hi is she on anti depressent ? when someone has alzheimers it is like being in a movie only you miss the beginning and the end and it is a horror movie in the middle. they get scared which often leads to anxiety. I became a master of changing the subject, putting on a funny movie or shows with laugh tracks. My mom passed on the 14th of Jan and looking back I wished I knew than what I know now, of course everyone is different and my mom only had anger issues if she was trying to articulate and we couldn't understand so we learned just to say ok mom or it's ok we love you hugs and gentelness is the best way to go. sometimes they don't want that and won't let something go at that point it is best just to remove yourself and come back a few min later. good luck to you the bets thing I ever did was to get her meds evulated by a psychologist for elderly. Serquil doses need to be a stronger dose as time goes on too.


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church lady answered...

We did exactly what Beth Spencer suggested and with one little pill the problem was solved. We also found out he need B-12 shots which can contribute to depression. That part of his illness is much better now, while everything has gotten mildly worse.


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djgray57 answered...

what i would do is this, find something that will make her laugh...do something funny, tell her something funny, anything that will make her laugh...she doesn't know why she is crying anymore than why she would be laughing...laughing is much more pleasant and upbeat...it will help her mood at the time...from then on watch what triggers the crying.


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jpreaves answered...

I will concur with the answer about depression and crying, but as she said, not all crying is from depression.......some is emotion. My wife has been taking a good med for depression and has for years, and shows no signs of depression that I can see. However, the emotion angle might be applied here. As I said, my wife is passive and very gentle in nature and instead of displaying anger she would ordinarily exhibit sobbing and crying. I think fear would be present in my case. When Jan fears something whether it be no words to explain how she is feeling at the time or just being scared....I don't really know. When I feel she has exhausted herself with the crying I would take a firm stance and gently tell her to stop it! She usually does in fairly short order.



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jandy 05 answered...

My 72 year old Mom has been diagnosed since 2004 but I suspect had it sooner.She has been on Aricept and anti-depressants since 2005. As of late she seems to be hitting the second stage and crying is more frequent,along with anger increasing. My poor Father is dealing with it daily, with me helping via phone calls. The calls most of the time calm her, and I have gotten rather good at talking her down. It breaks my heart, so much...but I do the best I can to try to hold on to her, and keep her focused on my voice and what I am saying even if its just for that moment.I hate this disease!! and what it has done to my beautiful mother! I also fear for myself getting it. Even tho she was diagnosed with severe dementia my grandmother, who was my mothers mom I believe had it also.It has helped to read all your words of encouragement on this site and I am glad I signed up!


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vinod srivastava answered...



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KitsunegariBlu answered...

@Churchlady-Vitamin B Shots would NOT have made your parent's Depression Worse. Multi B Vitamins are used in Conjunction with Omega Oils as Mood Stabilizers & to help with Depression. They do not take the place of an Additional Antidepressant (like Prozac or Lithium--I'm naming common brand names that have been around for ages! There are constantly new advances in the Field-and it's always best for a person to check to see if a medication works with whatever they might be taking for their Alzhiemers Treatment(s). Some work hand in hand, others are medications you can 'piggy back' so to speak. And of course--there are natural Vitamins & Minerals you can add naturally via consuming your daily meals.

Even if you're not a big eater. If you know you need more Iron in your Diet- You can add some Spinach- to your dinner Salad. Or you could if you needed more Omega Oils & Protein you could have a piece of fish for lunch. If you thought that was too costly--you could have a can of tuna in it's place.

You can get a Nutrition Book from the Library, for nothing, or you can purchase one in large print from the book store-to help you create your own Menu's so you can tailor make your own meals-to help make your loved one feel better longer.


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momspoppies answered...

Sometimes I wonder if your loved ones are having lucid moments and realize what has happened and is happening to them and it is more than they can bear - therefore, the uncontrollable crying and the clinging to certain people afraid of being left alone or of dying alone. This is such a horrendous disease and I pray for a cure and for each of you.


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jpreaves answered...

I have something to add about my wife's crying. It has been sometime since she alst cried. I honestly don't know why she has stopped but whatever caused it is gone. I am confounded as she seems to go from one systom to another so abruptly. She now paces the floor when something is bothering her. At about 3pm at the Day Care Facility where I leave her every morning at 7:30am she begins to get very nervous and sobs a little (not really crying) and they think she is looking for me. They now give her a Xanax to calm her down and it seems to be working. They have a fulltime Nurse at the Day Care.


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RobinD answered...

My heart goes out to all of you. It's so difficult to watch your loved one suffer and be unable to change the situation. Most of you suggest just comforting them. That's the first rule of thumb.

I'm sure you're aware that at times they are themselves again and communicate fairly well. I asked my mother once when she was "there" with me "what happens when you go away"? She said it was like a dream, only fuzzier and nothing makes sense to her; she also said she gets very afraid but the thing she liked the most was that when I was there she felt safer. So maybe that will help. I know if that happened to me, I would be crying and upset too.

I also asked her if she understood what we were saying to her when she was "away". She said "ofcourse I do; I'm not stupid, my brain just doesn't work right anymore". A little humor, as she was feisty, but think of it that way. Distract or offer comfort, depending on the situation.

I am so sorry for what you're going through. But the little things you experience make it all worth the ride. I hope this helps.


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kee answered...

My mother passed away in 2006 after only maybe 5 yrs of Alzheimers. It progressed fairly rapidly. At first it was her thinking my father moved another woman in to live with them, then she started seeing children hanging from the electrical lines outside the kitchen window. Finally she was driving and ran her car up under a parked semi--had my father been riding with her, he would have been impaled. But after that the memory loss was rapid. Finally when we got her into a nursing home, she fell and broke her hip, requiring surgery. Rehab was not done, and she never walked again. Just a few months after that, she would cry horribly for hours on end. At that point she knew no one, not even me, and we were extremely close. My father had since been placed in a nursing home and died 8 months later. I'm not sure if in her mind she was missing him, but she didn't know how to ask questions any longer, or reveal her feelings to us. I just had to listen and cry myself. Then at other times she'd cry and be calling her father's name. It was a horrible time, and I certainly empathize for those that are going through the same thing. All you can do is hold them in your arms and love them with all your heart and soul. I wish I could do it just one more time.


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Oom answered...

I will tell u about myself.I was born in a warmth and conservative family.My parents were both teachers.I'm the only one girl among 4 brothers.My father and I got close to each other very much.He passed away when he was 49 years of age with his hands in my hands.That was the worst thing in my life.All of my brothers got marry ,so did I. We are quite a big family and keep in touch all the time.When I finished my study in the university I got a good job and work there until now.At the last year in the university I met my husband,he is the only one.After we knew each other for 3-4 years,we married in 1984.He works for the government with high ranking in the Minister of Health.He's a good man also.We have 2 daughters.The elder one got a job and going to marry soon,the younger one is studying in the faculty of Dentistry and one n a half year she will be graduated.We have houses,cars,nothing to worried about.(My husband said I was spoiled by my family but I think I'm not).By nature,I'm easy to cry and easy to laugh.Like music and sing a song(though I am à bad Singer).I'm a talkative lady sometimes.But the only thing that I know exactly is I respect for my true love.If you want me to stop crying,you should close mixnfx's songs....,,


88% helpful
GrandEd answered...

My wife is 65, and not diagnosed with Alzheimers', but some un-specified form of dementia. She is late-early stage, is perfectly aware of what's going on with her, and scared to death. She was a very successful business woman, raised her kids,ran her household, and a good business. Smart, acute, fully aware of her surroundings and able to figure anything out without a hitch. Now, she's unable to grasp simple concepts, forgets everything, keeps everything written down and still forgets things. She can't function in a complicated environment. While she was very social, partying, spending lots of time with friends and associates, she is now very conscious of her memory short-comings, and embarassed when she'll be talking with them and they tell her that she had just finished telling that story five minutes ago. As a result, she's now a recluse, not wanting to socialize at all. At the same time, she tells me that she's mad at me for not taking her out, and that she's depressed about staying at home all of the time. This is pure depression. She's angry at what's happening to her, and scared of where she's going. So, depression, coupled with anger, fear and embarassment. Not a very good situation. We're looking for answers, as well.


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STEEPLEJACK82 answered...

Today is my first time reading this site. What I have noticed is that my Wife has most of the comments in the Caring.com caregivers responses. Looks like I have a lot to learn. I work from my home office helping my son with his construction co. [ I retired after 29 yrs.] It helps to stay busy and also spend time with my wife [ 29 yrs May 2012 ] Good luck to all of you. I will return often to get help coping.


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Rob answered...

None of the caregivers have mentioned AD support groups. Call your local Alzheimer's organization for info. I attended groups for 7 years, getting help from friends and relatives when I needed somebody in the house while I was gone. I got all the names and phone numbers of my wife's friends from her address book, and sent a letter outlining the situation and suggesting they call me to schedule a visit to our house. This was immensely successful. Because they had been primed, they were not shocked to see their friend so changed. A few couldn't hack it and never same back, but many were repeat visitors and sitters.


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Geri Hall answered...

I think everyone has hit on the most important issue: that of depression and that it needs to be treated medically. Even when you don't detect depression, medicating for it can be used as a trial to see if it is depression.

There is one other issue that can be raised after the above has been tried. Some people with moderate to advanced dementia, partiicularly Alzheimer's, vascular dementia, or frontotemporal dementia have emotions very close to the surface. Thus when anything happens, they cry of laugh spontaneously. If you ask "Is something the matter?" they will say "no."

One patient I had literally had tears drippiung off his chin. I asked the second question: "Are you sad or blue?" He replied while weeping "No, I'm happioer than I've ever been in my life!"

We always try antidep[ressants on people who cry but then add some envirnmental measures too such as videos of babies, a baby doll or stuffed animal that liiks like something from their past. Sometimes a stuffed bear can help. Special prodiucts can be found online at www.alzstore.com. If the person is lonely and fearful this can be a great help.

If the patient has advanced dementia meaning they generally are dependent in all activities we have some other things to try such as: - Massagiung hands and feet with lavendar oil - Making sure the patient received scheduled acetaminophen (Tylenol) , 2 500 mgs tablets morning and evening (check with the primary doctor before trying this but people who are advanced often have pain from muscles and cramps - Reading a book called The Sun on My Face - We have a hospice that had an actor record psalmes (with the smites and smotes removed. It is wonderfully comofrting to people who practice a religion - Quiet or favorite music played softly can help - Hanging crystals in a window to create rainbows. - Asking the patient if their (deceased) relatives are coming at night and listen to the answer without judging it or emplaining that "You know your mother passed!"
- Making sure the patient is not constipaed or having problems urinating - Offering something sweet. - Sitting quietly or laying in the bed cuddling and softly reassuring that you are there for the person -- always.

But sometimes tears are just a manifestation of increasing brain damage. The problem is it hurts YOUR heart.

Professionally we would never use an antipsychotic as the danger of developing a Parkinsonism is just too great,


Geri Hall, PhD, ARNP, GCNS, FAAN Advanced Practice Nurse Banner Alzheimer's Institute


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cappichino answered...

I am a caregiver to an 80 yr. old gentleman. He will cry at any mention of anyone's death or illness and also out of tiny little frustrations. I mean really cry and lots of tears. I have found the simplest answer to this everyday occurrence for him! I take many cell phone pictures of happy times, eating, holding the dog, walking in the grocery store and laughing, visiting with family and friends, sitting on the porch with a refreshment etc. When he gets instantly sad, I ask him, "Are you feeling sad?" give him a moment to answer and then show him the cell phone pictures and his mood swings to laughing and pleasantries pretty quick! Give him a hug and tell him everything is o.k. I am here for you. It has been a lifesaver for his mood swings and when his family visits and doesn't know what to do when this happens. I do not take sad pictures and archive them when they come up. This also helps the dr. & family to see him in pictures everyday. Gives a timeline for changes in behavior, facial expressions etc. He is under care weekly visits w/lic. clinical social worker for depression as his wife passed 7 mos. ago and has a very hard time thinking about her being gone and sick for 2 yrs. prior to her passing.


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TinaR3 answered...

My mother is in the second half of Alzheimer's, and the neurologist told me that people at her stage do not understand enough to be depressed. We had tried a few different meds, including Serroquel and Celexa, but she seemed to get worse mentally. She is in an "Enhanced Care" locked facility now because she began to wander out of the Assisted Living section. She is becoming more and more paranoid, scared, delusional & agitated at a fairly rapid rate. She did just have a minor stroke (cerebellum) a few weeks ago, after having had a more serious one (occipidal) that took out her ability to read and reason about a year ago. She has had several hospitalizations since the first incident, most often blood pressure related. With each hospitalization, we definitely see her go downhill more mentally. I don't understand why the majority of people around her seem so much more calm about being there than she does. She asks us all the time when she can get out of there. But all us kids work full time, and it is cost-prohibitive to have in-home care 24/7. It is breaking my heart thinking of her being scared to death all the time, but I do not know what to do. I read about Residential Care Homes on this site, so am going to see if there are any of those around here. I think she needs to be in a smaller facility where they have more time to spend with the residents.
This site is so helpful to me. There is something comforting in knowing there are people out there who know how hard this is. Thank you all for sharing and caring!


PBA answered...

I encourage everyone on this blog to google a condition called pseudobulbar affect or PBA. You may find your answer there. Note, there is a FDA approved treatment for it!


Krystinaki answered...

I am experiencing the same with my beautiful Mum and however bad this may sound, I feel better knowing that what I am experiencing with Mum is not unique and indeed many of you are facing the same. It is unfortunate that our health professionals do not offer educational venues for caregivers, rather we have to find things on our own and feel lost in the system.
My Mum went through the full spectrum of feelings: loss, anger, agitation, retaliation in a form of attacks both verbal and physical. After spending close to two years in a hospital, Mum was placed in a nursing home and now the crying started. The anger and attacks are gone but this could be because now Mum cannot articulate nor make herself understood in any of the five languages she knows nor is able to walk and is confined to a wheelchair. This horrible, horrible illness is not only debilitating to the victim and also for the family.
To combat Mum's crying, I fortified her room with all the paintings she had in her home bedroom, have a radio playing classical music day and night, bought a TV and leave it n mute so that MUM has a visual stimulation, have a healthy supply of candy and cookies and visit Mum on a daily basis and constantly hug and kiss her.


Wjs3655 answered...

For all of the posts on this page....please ask your loved ones neurologist to evaluate for a condition call pseudobulbar affect (PBA)! There is a treatment that works very well. Please read about the symptoms on www.pba.org. PBA symptoms get misdiagnosed as depression all the time because of the crying spells. Hope this helps!


sunkiss4you answered...

I don't have an answer because my mother cries everyday. She can not talk so she can not tell why or if something is wrong with her, which makes it very difficult for her and I both. After reading others have the same problem I know now i'm not alone and making an appointment for possible depression. Thank you for the support which we all need caring for those with this condition.