Dementia is not a specific disease. Alzheimer’s Association describes it as a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills, severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. People with dementia, alike people without this condition, may feel trapped and terrified, get agitated, and in consequence sometimes aggressive. It’s normal for all of us, human beings, to feel that way. More often than not, many people who look after people with dementia on everyday basis, including family carers and caregivers, unknowingly link this normal behaviour with the disease rather than finding and addressing the real underlying behaviour causes. Environment servers an important role in sustaining challenging behaviour. Thus, the way an individual with dementia is being approached or treated prompts the aggressive behaviour, which in reality is a normal response to something the person may perceive as a threat.
Instead of blaming the disease, learn how to prevent causes from happening in the first place and de-escalate if and when they occur. There are several techniques you can use to calm challenging behaviours. These include:
- Remove environmental threat by calming yourself down, taking a deep breath and accepting the reality of the person with dementia.
- Try to figure out what causes this behaviour by seeing a situation from the other person’s side. There is a lot of pieces to the puzzle, hence, try to ‘walk in the shoes of the other person’. This will enable you to identify the cause of distress more effectively.
- Back off for a moment with what you want to do and create space. Rather than allowing yourself to be stressed over the other person’s behaviour, try to choose alternative approach method(s).
- Let go of your own ego. Learn not to get hurt by the other person’s hurtful words. It is important because this skill will make any situation easier to deal with.
- Talk to a person at or below eye level in order to communicate effectively.
- Calm your voice and relax your body. If you look stressed, the other person will react to your behaviour in an unfavourable way.
- Attend to the person’s needs, ask them about what they want and how they feel about it.
- Be willing to go where the person with dementia is asking you to. You can then redirect conversation in order to help the person to feel calmer.