Tips For Dealing With Aggressive Behavior In Dementia
1. Be prepared with realistic expectationsReminding yourself that challenging behavior and aggressive outbursts are normal symptoms of dementia helps you respond in a calm and supportive way.
Knowing that these episodes are a common part of the disease reduces your shock and surprise when it does happen and may also make it a little easier to not take the behavior personally.
2. Try to identify the immediate cause or triggerThink about what happened just before the aggressive outburst started. Something like fear, frustration, or pain might have triggered it.
For example, your older adult might start yelling at empty areas of the room and telling people to get out. Looking around, you might notice that the room is starting to get darker because its early evening. The dim light causes shadowing in the corners of the room, making it seem like there are people in the corner.
After identifying that potential trigger, turn on the lights to get rid of the shadowy corners. That will hopefully help you older adult calm down. And, in the future youll know to turn on the lights before the room gets too dim.
In another example, you could have unintentionally approached your older adult from behind and startled them. In a sensitive moment, that could make them feel attacked and so they lash out in what they perceive as self-defense.
3. Rule out pain as the cause of the behaviorPain and physical discomfort can trigger aggressive behavior in someone with dementia.
S To Calm Agitation And Aggression In Older Adults With Alzheimer’s
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.
Tips To Ease Alzheimers Aggression
Once you understand the triggers for Alzheimerâs aggression, you can take steps to prevent it. A few things to try:
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Do Try To Be Pleasant
Caregivers are also humans who are prone to emotions like anger, stress, impatience, and irritation. Even when one goes through caregiver burnout, it is best that the patient does not get wind of it. It is better to step out of the room and try some breathing exercises to calm down before going back to deal with the dementia patient. Where possible, shelve the bad feelings and try and deal with them later. Dementia patients deal with a lot and they do not need more on their plate if they are to lead fulfilling and happy lives.
Ten Tips For Communicating With A Person With Dementia
We arenât born knowing how to communicate with a person with dementiaâbut we can learn. Improving your communication skills will help make caregiving less stressful and will likely improve the quality of your relationship with your loved one. Good communication skills will also enhance your ability to handle the difficult behavior you may encounter as you care for a person with a dementing illness.
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Preventing And Managing Aggressive Behaviour In People With Dementia
Find ways to prevent and manage aggressive behaviour in the future, to help both you and the person with dementia.
Working out what might be triggering aggressive behaviour may make it easier to prevent it. Always try to see things from the persons perspective. Think about the situations where theyve become aggressive, and to try to find what has triggered this response.
Think about what you know about the person and their life. Be aware of their beliefs and thoughts and try not to argue with them. For example, if the person has always valued their privacy and independence, then being helped with eating or washing might cause them to become angry.
How To Deal With A Mean Dementia Patient*
Why is my mom so angry? Why does my husband blow up when I try to explain something?
Why does it feel like having dementia and being mean to family often go hand in hand? There is an answera way to avoid the anger that so often accompanies dementiabut its not a simple one. If it were, far fewer families would be dealing with combativeness and aggression when their loved ones develop dementia or Alzheimers. Like anything complex, this will take some explaining, so Ill write about this issue of anger and meanness with dementia in a series of articles .
The first step to having happier interactions and fewer episodes of aggression or combativeness with someone whos experiencing dementia is to understand why they may begin treating you badly.
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How To Respond To A Person With Dementia Who Is Angry
This blog is the second in a series by the same authors on “How to Respond to a Person With Dementia Who Is…”
Co-written by Nettie Harper, MSRS and Michael Friedman, L.M.S.W.
“Go away, you thief,” Margaret screamed when her son knocked on the door of her room. “You stole my money.” He opened the door and entered. “Get away!” she screamed again. She was sitting in her easy chair. A cup of coffee was on the table next to her. She grabbed it and threw it at him.
“Mother, it’s me, David,” he says. “I didn’t steal your money. You don’t keep money in the room.”
“You’re lying, you thief. Get away from me.” She was looking for something else to throw.
Stung by her words, he felt anger well up in him. He wanted to scream back, but he turned and left the room, closing the door behind him.
His mother has been living with Alzheimer’s for almost a decade. Her memory for names and recent events has diminished more and more over time, as has her ability to deal with situations that diverge from her routines. She can no longer manage her finances, shop, cook or keep herself clean.
David is the child who has stepped in to make sure she has everything she needs and spend time with her. Today’s outburst stunned and hurt him. He was uncertain what to do.
But if it is not a fleeting experience, what could be happening and what can be done?
Here are some rules of thumb that may help you when faced with anger.
If there were only one rule of thumb it would be: Be kind.
Our Very Active Intuitive Thinking Skills
Focusing on the skills they wont lose can diminish mean dementia.
Intuitive Thinking Skill #1Using our five senses.
Dementia takes away our ability to analyze, label and interpret, but dementia does not take away our ability to see, hear, feel, taste and smell. Age might dull our senses, but to the degree theyre still available to us, our senses will provide us with raw data loud and cleardespite dementia. Mean dementia and anger result when caregivers and family members dont realize that their loved ones are still experiencing what they can no longer describe or interpret.
Your loved one is experiencing everything around them and perceiving your emotions as much as ever , but they can no longer remember what happened moments ago or process any reasons for why youre doing what youre doing.
Think about what this means: your loved one is experiencing everything around them and perceiving your emotions as much as ever , but they can no longer remember what happened moments ago or process any reasons for why youre doing what youre doing. Think of the mistaken assumptions they cant avoid. They need us to narrate and explain whats going on, without judgment. They need us to make sure that whatever sensory stimulation comes their way is pleasing and uplifting. They need us to do for them what they can no longer do for themselves: use memory and reasoning to avoid conflict.
Intuitive Thinking Skill #2Feeling our own feelings.
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How To Respond To Aggressive Behaviour In Dementia
It can be difficult to know how to react when a person is behaving aggressively. Try to take a moment to think about their needs and why they might be behaving in this way. They are not likely to be doing it on purpose.
As a persons dementia progresses, they will have more difficulty understanding logic and persuasion, so trying to reason or argue with them is not likely to help. It may cause frustration and distress for you both.
Determining The Cause Of The Behavior
Taking the time to listen and assess the situation can help pinpoint the source of anxiety and intent of the behavior. Is there a pattern to the behavior? Has anything changed in the patient’s health, environment, treatment plan, or daily routine?
Ask these kinds of questions when determining the cause of violent behavior and remember: Don’t take it personally. It may seem like the dementia patient is attacking you, but really they are anxious and you happen to be around.
When behavioral disturbances occur, give the person space you may need to leave the room until you’re both calm, according to the Alzheimer’s Society. Showing your anxiety may make the dementia patient more agitated, so make sure you can approach them calmly. Tell the person you can see they’re upset.
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:
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.
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Dealing With Aggressive Behaviors In The Late Stages Of Alzheimers
When someone you love has Alzheimers disease, there are many challenges to contend with. Loss of independence, memory loss, increasing reliance on caregivers, greater difficulty performing everyday tasks, limited mobility, and a change in living circumstances can all be very difficult. In addition to these aspects of Alzheimers disease and often related to them are behaviors exhibited by patients that can compromise quality of life, and pose challenges for caregivers. Understanding the source of these behaviors and responding to them appropriately can help make the work of caregiving easier, and increase your loved ones comfort and well-being.
Edison Home Health Care is happy to advise and assist you or any loved one who seek appropriate care of Alzheimers disease. Give us a call at 888-311-1142, or fill out a contact form and we will respond shortly.
Body Languagestop And Face Them
Next, we have to think about posture. When someone lacks memory skills, it changes how they interpret gesture and posture. Suppose Im making sandwiches for lunch and my husband walks into the kitchen and asks what Im doing. If he isnt experiencing dementia, I dont need to stop and turn around to face him. I can simply direct a brief answer over my shoulder, because if hes not experiencing dementia our previous conversations and exchanges will be there in his mind to temper my lack of attention during this moment.
However, if hes experiencing dementia, he will by default interpret my posture as dismissive, because for him its our first interaction and for him my posture will speak louder than my words. So, if my husband is experiencing dementia I need to pause and turn to look at himand make eye contactto avoid inadvertently hurting his feelings.
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Facial Expressionstry Not To Frown
They will see and respond to the briefest flash of irritation on our faces. They can sense that we are concerned or worried from the set of our shoulders or slight tension in our stride as we enter the room. They can tell if we are frustrated from the slightest of pauses before we answer them or the merest intonation in a word. They are always reading our emotions.
And so, we must become aware of what we are communicating nonverbally. All of us have a default facial expressionthe one we wear when were deep in thought or concentrating on a task or determined to solve a problem. For most of us thats a frown. But if our companions are experiencing dementia, they wont be able to remind themselves that were deep in thought, or concentratingthey will simply see the frown and take it personally.
If you spend time with someone whos experiencing dementia, ask your friends and family to tell you when they see you frowning. It takes awareness and practice, but you can teach yourself to look happy and at peace when your mind is wandering or occupied elsewhere. Learning just thisto simply put a true smile on your face the moment you enter your loved ones presencewill go far in changing the dementia anger stage back to peaceful, friendly interactions.
Our Most Frustrating Rational Thinking Losses
If Im experiencing dementia and you ask me to do something I cant do, Ill feel embarrassed, angry, hurt, or all three at once. Its essential that you understand what someone experiencing dementia is no longer able to comprehend for you to avoid getting combative, aggressive, and mean reactions.
Rational Thinking Loss #1Becoming unable to understand why.
Rational thinking skills are for understanding how, why, when, who and whatthe ability to perceive relationships between facts. Dementia takes that away. So if you try to explain to your loved one why they need to do something, or what went wrong, or how to do something, they will not be able to follow you and will end up embarrassed or concluding that youre making fun of them. Anger or hurt feelings will result. Whenever you catch yourself explaining why, stop. Youre asking them to do something they can no longer do. Youll have pleasanter interactions once you build new conversational habits and turn your focus away from why to talking about things that are pleasant.
Rational Thinking Loss #2Becoming unable to see cause and effect.
Rational Thinking Loss #3Becoming unable to follow sequences.
Rational Thinking Loss #4Becoming unable to prioritize.
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