May 20, 2020
Dementia often causes difficult behaviors in those we love due to confusion or memory issues. Your loved one may also become more easily agitated, have mood swings, wander, try to manipulate the situation, or show poor judgment. These dementia behaviors—and several others—are normal. But, for caregivers, they create unique challenges. While you can’t take these behaviors away, you can use tools to manage them. Use these seven strategies to help you cope better.
Your words and body language can help steer the situation in a more positive direction. When things are tense or overwhelming, it’s easy to just react. However, the National Institute on Aging says reassuring words are important. Use phrases like, “You’re safe; tell me how I can help you.” Also, avoid complex arguments or logical explanations. These may confuse your loved one more.
Remember that your loved one’s behaviors are caused by a medical condition. Think through his or her actions from that point of view. And consider if an underlying issue is causing more difficult behaviors. Factors like pain, hunger, lack of sleep, or another unmet need may be the cause. If you understand the deeper problem, you can work to find a solution.
Instead of trying to control behaviors, redirect to something else. Take a walk, create something, go for a car ride, or ask for help with a task. These are all positive outlets for energy, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. If you have items that promote positive memories for your loved one, keep them nearby and use them to distract as needed.
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You may notice some patterns to your loved one’s behavior. Is there a certain time of day that seems to be worse? Is there a place or activity that makes him or her agitated? For instance, many people with dementia have more trouble in the evening hours or around personal care tasks, like bathing. Once you identify triggers, you can be proactive in how you approach them.
You want your loved one to feel calm and secure. Calm surroundings may help with difficult behaviors. The Family Caregiver Alliance suggests several small steps you can take for a soothing, as well as safe, environment.
For example, consider signage, child-safe locks and gates, or monitoring systems if you’re worried about wandering and safety. Reduce clutter and noise. Create visual cues—like labels on common items or rooms—to help with confusion. Or use lighting or other cues to help calm your loved one if evenings are hard.
Every person’s progression with dementia is different. You may have to try several tactics or change your approach as your loved one changes. Keep a journal of behaviors to help you track triggers and resolutions. This may help you see the bigger picture and know when it’s time to adjust.
Above all, you need support as a caregiver. This role is often tough on you physically and emotionally. And you shouldn’t try to do it all. Find a support group, take breaks, and don’t forget your own health. Whenever your loved one visits the doctor, talk through concerns about new behaviors or underlying issues. He or she may recommend other approaches or medications.
If you’re struggling as a full-time caregiver, you have options. At some point, you may want to research senior living communities with programs specifically designed to help with dementia behaviors. In the end, these communities can provide your family with the support it needs and keep your loved one safe and comfortable.
Need help with dementia behaviors? Learn more about memory care at Walnut Place and how we support you and your loved one.
We’re here to help you navigate the important decisions about providing support for your aging parent. Call (214) 361-8923 and see how we may be able to help.