Caring for a Person with Dementia, Who Exhibits Challenging Behavior

No one expects to care for a loved one living with dementia, so we do not prepare for it ahead of time. In the beginning, it may even seem quite doable, and then the unusual or extreme behavior becomes more challenging.

The first thing I would say is that your loved one can no longer live in your reality cognitively, so you must be able to enter theirs when an unusual or demanding behavior occurs. Remember that you can adjust your behavior; your loved one cannot. Virginia Bell and David Troxel, who wrote the “Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care,” maintain that it is impossible to win an argument with a person who has dementia; my advice, don’t try.

It is essential to show that you want to help, keep your mood and tone empathetic, choose words that reflect what the person wants, use facial expressions and physical touch to convey that you understand their feelings.

You need to get the attention of your loved ones before you can begin to help them. Make sure that any noises that may be causing challenging behavior are removed. That might be as simple as turning the TV off or guiding them to a quieter part of the house.

Short-term memory is affected when someone has dementia, which means they cannot hold information like they once did. The average for short-term memory processing in a person without dementia is 10-20 seconds. When talking with or issuing instructions to your loved one, keep to short instructions, two or three words at a time, so that they can process the information you are giving them. Break down tasks into simple steps so it is more manageable for the person.

People with dementia often have good long-term memory, asking questions about these memories can help to deflect people away from some behaviors. Using visual cues like photographs or items acquired throughout a person’s lifetime can also help with this.

The main thing is to take care of yourself. You cannot help anyone else unless you first support yourself; just like in an aircraft, attach your oxygen mask before attaching someone else’s. Take time out for yourself once in a while, find someone willing to give you time off or a place that offers respite. Don’t be afraid to take yourself away from the situation until you feel ready to cope again; always remember to make sure your loved one is safe before doing this. Use local resources like Country Meadows Village for advice; if they do not have the answer, they can point you in the right direction.

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