Why Not Try This
Challenging dementia behaviors can be super-stressful. This basic approach can help stretch your patience and move you both toward a more peaceful quality of life.
Best of all, you can start using the Why-This, Try-This approach right away, even if youve been responding differently before.
To make these steps simple to refer to, Ive compiled a free downloadable PDF, 7 Steps to Managing Difficult Dementia Behaviors Without Medication, A Surviving Alzheimers Cheatsheet.
Get Your Free Managing Dementia Behaviors Cheatsheet.
Questions, suggestions, or try tips that work well for you? Please post them below!
Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimers: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers . You can learn more at survivingalz.com.
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Keeping The Hands Busy
Keeping the hands busy can be an enjoyable activity for some, while providing mental, sensory, and tactile stimulation. Whether its peeling carrots, doing large puzzles, folding colorful scarves, or fiddling with a lock and chain activity board, caregivers report these simple activities often bring hours of contentment to the person.
Expert TIP: Youll have more success by saying I need your help, or I could use your opinion, or Could you help me with These expressions indicate to the person that they are valued, that someone needs them, and increases the likelihood that they will want to go do something with you. Dale Thielges, Recreation Therapist, Alzhiemers Assocation.
Appropriate Use Of Sedatives For Dementia Patients
When the call came through at 1 a.m. Sonja was shocked but not entirely surprised.
The voice on the other end of the line was from the care facility where her father lived. Her dad had fallen and hit his head, the voice explained. He was being taken to the emergency department.
He needed stitches, all because he had tried to get up to use the bathroom, says Sonja.
Sonja, a licensed practical nurse, blames her fathers accident on the change that had been made to his dose of Ativan right before his fall. The dose had been raised to two milligrams four times more than his original prescription.
Its a dose that could knock anybody out, Sonja says. She stresses that she didnt want her father to be on Ativan, a benzodiazepine commonly used to treat anxiety and insomnia, in the first place.
It was not the first time she had disagreed with a doctors decision about how to manage her fathers dementia.
The progression of her fathers dementia was the reason that Sonja and his doctors even had to consider pharmaceutical options. Her dad was becoming increasingly disoriented and paranoid. With staff his behaviour was aggressive and unmanageable.
I had requested something to help calm him down. I wanted it to be easier on the caregivers, she says.
More concerning for Sonja was that the medications were only masking, not resolving, her fathers symptoms. was more for the caregivers convenience, not to help dad.
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Long Term Solution Through Changes In Life Style
- Reducing alcohol use and smoking:Smoking and alcohol use aggravates diseases of the vascular system and reducing these will help you control the symptoms of dementia
- Diabetes:Controlling your diabetes goes a long way in reducing the pace of degeneration of the nervous system
- Diet to Reduce Cholesterol Levels: High cholesterol levels also often inhibit your blood vascular system and having a healthy diet will improve your chances of staving off severe dementia
- Higher Brain Activity: Take care to engage your patient with as much brain activity as possible, which will help to improve and stabilize higher brain functions
Here we have a Youtube video that shows some caregiving tips for dementia patients.
Tips To Prevent Confusion
While you can try to monitor the daily situations and interactions your loved one faces, ultimately you cannot control the world around them. Accidents and emergencies happen. Being prepared to respond, console and care for a confused senior is the best way to support their well-being.
Assisted living professionals offer the following tips to family members seeking to prevent confusion and agitation:
Create a calm environmentBeing overstimulated by loud talking, commotion, and unfamiliar faces causes stress for seniors with dementia. Having a quiet space that is comfortable can provide refuge to an overwhelmed loved one. Comfort objects such as blankets or clothing items can provide a distraction and added security.
Monitor personal comfort and any additional symptomsMake sure your loved one has taken their medications properly. Ensuring that they have eaten, had enough water to drink, and received adequate sleep is also important. Being vigilant about personal care can help seniors with dementia be more comfortable.
For more information about adult day care as a transition into full-time assisted living, read our Why Adult Day Care is Important article.
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S To Managing Difficult Dementia Behaviors
1. REASSURE the person
The hard truth: the person with dementia cant change the way he or she is. You have to change your reaction and the environment or situation.
So putting the person first in your thinking as you react is paramount.
Reassuring brings anxiety, upset, or other stress down a notch. It communicates Im on your side. I take you seriously. Not feeling understood makes anyone more distressed. For someone with dementia, you create a floor to what must feel like bottomless uneasiness.
The catch: To reassure someone else, we first have to collect our own feelings. This can be hard because these are almost always emotionally charged situations!
Its easy to feel annoyed when your parent is about to drive off yet another caregiver with false accusations. Or scared when your spouse lashes out or hits. Or embarrassed when Moms blouse comes off. Or worried Dad will fall or get lost. We want to REACT!
Showing emotional intensity only makes things worse. It puts the other person on the defensive and adds to their instability . Also, people with dementia tend to be very sensitive to others moods, mirroring their demeanor. If youre upset, theyre apt to continue to be upset or become more upset. If youre calm and reassuring, you have a much better chance of transmitting that state.
How to reassure:
Approach slowly and from the front. Youre less likely to startle, confuse, or provoke.
2. REVIEW the possible causes
How to try to understand the WHY:
Some Unfortunate Facts About Dementia
If you do not know anybody suffering from dementia, I would say you are fortunate, because:
- There are over 50 million sufferers of dementia worldwide
- That makes for almost 1 in every 100 people in the world
- This condition mostly affects older people, so the percentages are much higher when compared to the most vulnerable population
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Do Not Try And Alter Undesirable Behavior
Lack of understanding may push one to try and change or stop any undesirable behavior from patients who have dementia. Keep in mind that it is almost impossible to teach new skills or even reason with the patient. Try instead to decrease frequency or intensity of the behavior. For instance, respond to emotion and not the changes in behavior. If a patient insists on always asking about a particular family member reassure them that he or she is safe and healthy as a way of keeping them calm and happy.
Helpful Tips For Caregivers
To decrease agitation and aggression with dementia, caregivers can help their loved ones in the following ways:
- Find a multidisciplinary team of specialists. This may include a psychiatrist to carefully consider the risks and benefits of medications for managing behavior, a geriatrician to optimize your loved ones medical situations, and an occupational therapist to consider modifications of a persons living environment and daily routine.
- Go for a walk or on an outing for a change of scenery. Physical activity has additional benefits on , and .
- Add massage and touch therapy, or just provide a calming hand massage.
- Incorporate music into your loved ones daily routine.
- Notice the first signs of agitation. Nondrug options work best the earlier they are used.
- Get creative: discover what works and try using different senses. Aromatherapy, an activity such as folding laundry, brushing hair, or dancing can all be calming.
- Consult with your physicians. Medications are often prescribed as first-line interventions despite what we know about the effectiveness of nondrug options.
- Educate all the people caring for your loved one on the interventions that work best, and check in with them about how these approaches are working.
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Tips For Handling A Seniors Aggression
Most importantly, try not to take the aggressive behavior personally, Hashmi says.
The classic line I always use is that this is the disease talking. It is not the person, Hashmi says. There is a lack of awareness in that moment. Its not your mom or dad or spouse saying that. Its the disease.
When you are faced with a loved ones aggression, Hashmi suggests employing these 4 Rs:
When theyre feeling calmer, Hashmi says, you can try asking yes/no questions to help determine whether an unmet need is causing the behavior. Ask: Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Are you in pain? Are you tired?
Memory Care At Discovery Village At Southlake
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Following A Partner Or Carer Around
Dementia makes people feel insecure and anxious. They may “shadow” their partner or carer as they need constant reassurance they’re not alone and they’re safe.
They may also ask for people who died many years ago, or ask to go home without realising they’re in their own home.
- have the person with you if you’re doing chores such as ironing or cooking
- reassure them that they’re safe and secure if they’re asking to go home
- avoid telling them someone died years ago and talk to them about that period in their life instead
Trying To Identify The Cause
One of the best ways to deal with an angry person is to try and figure out what has triggered the mood swing.
Numerous factors can cause this type of reaction.
Environmental factors such as feelings of being lost or overstimulation can also evoke anger in a person who is affected by the illness.
Identifying the CAUSE of the behavior helps you to rectify it fast to ensure that the person with dementia is as comfortable as possible.
For instance, if the individual is hungry or thirsty giving them a drink and food can help correct the problem.
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How To Deal With Dementia Behavior Problems
- How to Deal with Dementia Behavior Problems: 19 Dos and Donts
Dementia is a disease that affects millions of people across the globe every year. It is often a highly misunderstood condition that is marred by numerous misconceptions, which make the condition difficult to understand and study.
You should know that dementia is not a name for an illness, rather it is a collective term that describes a broad range of symptoms that relate to declining of thinking, memory, and cognitive skills. These symptoms have deteriorating effects that usually affect how a patient acts and engages in the day-to-day activities.
In advanced dementia stages, affected persons may experience symptoms that bring out a decline in rational thought, intellect, social skills, memory, and normal emotional reactivity. It is something that can make them powerless when it comes to living normal, healthy lives.
Relatives, caregivers, spouses, siblings, children and anyone close to a person who has dementia need to know how to deal with behavioral problems that surface because of the illness. Examples of dementia problems may include aggressiveness, violence and oppositional behaviors. Find out some of the vital Do and Donts when dealing with a dementia patient.
Read: Communication In The Middle Stages Of The Dementia Journey
Always treat your loved one with respect. These feelings can help foster effective communication with someone with dementia. Even more importantly, continue to interact with your loved one with dignity. Although you may see behaviors that remind you of a child, your loved one is not a child. Guarding his or her dignity will prevent hurt feelings that lead to agitation.
The reality of your loved one with dementia may not agree with the reality that you see. But the feelings that he or she is experiencing is something you can both understand. Using Validation Theory in dementia care can improve your communication. You can agree with your loved ones perception of reality without lying. The easiest way to do this is to ask gentle questions about what they are telling you. When your loved one tells you that there is a strange man in her kitchen, you can validate the feeling behind it and ask questions. Even if that strange man is actually her husband.
Try saying, That must be frightening! Would you like me to go check why he is there?
Other bridging phrases are:
- It would be so lovely to do that.
Set your loved one up for success. Dementia causes damage to the brain which makes it difficult to express thoughts and perform tasks. The brain can be overstimulated by background noises, clutter, crowds, or lights. This overstimulation can bring on feelings of restlessness.
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Create A Calming Environment
Seniors with dementia are more likely to get upset when they feel overwhelmed by their environments. If possible, try to turn off anything noisy or flashy, such as radios, televisions, or novelty lamps. Turn the lights on if the room seems dark or dim the lights in an overly bright room. If your loved one is in an area where you cannot control the environment, you may need to take him or her to a quieter area.
Benefits Of Treating Dementia With Medications
While there is no cure for dementia, taking medicine prescribed by a physician can have positive results. First and foremost, medications can help calm individuals suffering from worrisome symptoms like anxiety, depression, and agitation. The right medication can make life easier for family members and friends too, especially those who serve as caregivers. Drugs can also slow the progression of the disease, enhance cognitive function, and improve memory recall.
Nevertheless, it is important for caregivers to be aware that there is no guarantee their friend or family member will respond to the prescribed medication. There is also the possibility that the medications may actually worsen behavioral changes. Should this occur, a medical professional should be contacted immediately.
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Common Causes Of Sleep Problems In Dementia Patients
Troubled sleep is thought to be a dementia risk factor as well as a behavioral symptom. Here are some factors that may contribute to your loved ones sleep problems:
- Brain changes. Dementia patients have steeper changes in their brains sleep architecture and their circadian rhythms, causing sleep disturbances.
- Over-the-counter medications. Some over-the-counter medications labeled PM can disrupt sleep by making patients sleep for a bit but then making them more confused or sleepy at the wrong time, Hashmi says.
- Diet. Caffeine, excess sugar , and alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns, Hashmi says.
- Electronic screens. The blue light from a computer, portable electronic devices, and television screens can delay sleep and disturb sleep patterns, Hashmi says.
S To Calm Agitation And Aggression In Older Adults With Alzheimers
The most important issue caregivers need to understand is seniors with dementia are experiencing their own realities. In order to appease a seniors agitation and aggression, caregivers need to tap into this reality and embrace it.
How to Handle Difficult Behaviors When a Senior Has Alzheimers
Here are 10 tips for coping when an older adult with dementia exhibits difficult behaviors.
Music therapy helps seniors calm down and reflect on happier times. According to research from the Alzheimers Association, listening to music releases dopamine in the brain and triggers happy feelings throughout the body.
Music also improves memory function and encourages social engagement.
According to a study in BJPsych Advances, using scents like lavender can reduce difficult behaviors in older adults with dementia.
Benefits include improved sleep, decreased agitation, higher concentration and reduced hallucinations.
A gentle human touch can create a bond between the caregiver and the senior, resulting in a calming effect. It also helps increase trust. A soft back rub or gentle hand pat may be a way to reduce agitation in a senior loved one.
According to Every Day Health, pet therapy has many benefits for seniors with dementia. They include decreased agitation, increased physical activity, increased appetite and joy.
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