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Behavioral Problems In Huntington's Disease
Caring For People With Huntington's Disease
Kansas University Medical Center
When confronted with an unwanted behavior, it is important to look at what the behavior represents and what it accomplishes.
 
As Huntington's disease advances the ability to communicate diminishes, First there is slowing in the production of words. As words become more sparse, the content is still there, sometime stripped of pronouns and adjectives. Eventually the person may not be able to use speech to communicate. It is at this point that many obnoxious behaviors occur.

Example: a person spits out the food that they are given to eat. What are the possible reasons:

  • since they can no longer feed themselves:
    • their mouth is still full of the last bite of food
    • you are feeding them too fast
    • they are full
  • they can not chew the food
  • they want something else
  • they want a drink
  • they don't like the food
  • and so on.

Lets face it, canned peas taste pretty bad. Maybe they would like fresh peas instead.

In this case the behavior can convey many different meanings. Solving the behavior for the meaning can eliminate the problem.

Remember that someone with Huntington's disease is still a person. They may not be the same as they were several years ago, but they deserve to be treated with respect and understanding to help preserve the quality and dignity of their life.

Compromise Solutions

Sometimes the solution is to relax one's expectations.

Another example, provided by Dr. Rubin, was a middle aged man with Huntington's disease who could feed himself, but preferred to be fed by an attendant. His rational was that it took such a long time to feed himself that he did not have time left over to go fishing, an activity that he enjoyed much more than feeding himself.