November 9, 2021
Dementia comes with many different changes in behavior, including dementia aggression. An aging adult who may have always been cool, calm, and collected can randomly lash out in outbursts that can be truly terrifying: hitting, yelling, cursing, kicking, biting, or throwing things. How can you, as a family caregiver, safely help restore a sense of calm?
Firstly, remember that dementia aggression is caused by the disease. It’s not something the senior can control, and it is not deliberate. That being said, it needs to be neutralized to keep both you and the older adult safe from harm.
“The 6 R’s of Managing Difficult Behavior,” developed by Dr. Peter Rabins and Nancy Mace in their book The 36-Hour Day, could be an ideal way to help. Read through and refer back to these suggestions so you are equipped for the next burst of aggression.
The 6 R’s:
- Reassess. Consider what might have provoked the incident. Causes could include physical pain, an excessive amount of distraction or noise in the room, hunger, thirst, fatigue, etc. Keeping a journal of what was happening before and during each occurrence might help provide clues.
- Restrict. Maintain a calm tone of voice and demeanor as you strive to help the individual withdraw from the behavior.
- Rechannel. Redirect the older adult to an activity the senior enjoys, or move to a different environment, such as stepping out onto the front porch or going to the living room together for a snack.
- Reconsider. Empathize with the senior loved one by picturing yourself dealing with a disease that impedes your ability to clearly communicate your wishes and needs, to accomplish tasks independently which were once very easy, to feel confused and disoriented, etc.
- Reassure. Let the senior see that everything is all right and that you are there. In the event that the person responds favorably to touch, place your hand on their shoulder, offer a hug or pat on the back, or take their hand in yours.
- Review. Note in your journal what went well – or what didn’t – to aid in utilizing the most reliable response as soon as the aggression arises again.
Keeping in mind that aggression may arise at any time in an aging adult with dementia, it is helpful to assess the home environment and make a plan to ensure it really is as calming and comfortable as possible, such as:
- Placing familiar, comforting objects within easy access.
- Playing quiet music the older adult enjoys in the background.
- Opening the shades during the day to allow a lot of day light to stream in.
- Avoiding TV shows that may show violence or other disturbing images.
Continuum, providers of home care in Ladue and the nearby area, is here to help as well with specially trained dementia caregivers who understand the nuances within the disease and how to most effectively manage the corresponding challenges. Reach out to us online or at (314) 863-9912 or (636) 861-3336 for additional information on our in-home dementia care services for seniors.