People with dementia often use behaviors such as wandering, pacing, cursing and calling out to tell us what they want or how they feel and there could be a number of reasons why it could be happening. If you’re caring for a person with dementia, you may have noticed that they sometimes respond to situations in unexpected or in appropriate ways. These reactions can be confusing or even scary to see, it’s important to understand that they’re happening for a reason. In this video, we’ll look at some of the most common types of responsive behaviors, and give you a few strategies for how to deal with them.
If you’re caring for a person with dementia, you may have noticed that they sometimes respond to situations in unexpected or inappropriate ways.
These reactions are called responsive behaviours, and although they can be confusing or even scary to see, it’s important to understand that they’re happening for a reason.
In this video, we’ll look at some of the most common types of responsive behaviours, and give you a few strategies for how to deal with them.
Responsive behaviour is a reaction to something that the person you’re caring for is having a hard time expressing.
When a responsive behaviour happens, remember that the person you’re caring for isn’t trying to be difficult, they’re having difficulty.
Even though it may be hard, try not to take their words or actions personally; they’re directed at the situation, not at you.
Responsive behaviours can show themselves in all sorts of ways. Sometimes they’re verbal; the person you’re caring for could yell, curse or call you names. Other times they can be physical.
When it comes to dealing with responsive behaviour, your own safety is key. If you feel like you’re unsafe or in danger, don’t be afraid to leave the area.
The most helpful way to control or stop responsive behaviour is to figure out what’s causing it and try to remove the trigger.
Although it may not always be possible to understand the cause of responsive behaviour, shifting your point of view is a good place to start.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common types of responsive behaviours and the best ways to help manage them.
Agitation is a responsive behaviour that can involve fidgeting, wandering, picking at one’s clothes, or general restlessness. If the person you’re caring for seems agitated, try giving them something to hold, distracting them with a conversation, or taking them for a walk. Ask yourself if they’re tired, too hot or cold, need to use the bathroom, or if the noise and lighting levels could be making them uncomfortable. Try not to get frustrated with them or raise your voice, and don’t tell them to calm down or stop what they’re doing.
Sexual behaviour is another common responsive reaction. This can be distressing to witness, especially for young caregivers taking care of a parent.
People with conditions like dementia have less control over their urges and often don’t understand social norms. Although you may find their actions shocking, as long as they aren’t hurting anyone you should try to give them privacy and avoid scolding them. If privacy isn’t an option like when you’re helping them bathe, try to distract them by giving them something to hold, like a washcloth or a shampoo bottle.
Sometimes what you might think of as sexual responsive behaviour is actually something else; perhaps their clothing is too tight, they’re too warm, or they need to use the bathroom. Look for possible triggers and do your best to remove or adjust them.
Another common responsive behaviour is repetition. The person you’re caring for might ask the same questions over and over or repeat the same words or movement. This can be difficult to handle as a caregiver, as they may be asking about a loved one who they’ve forgotten has died. Try to think of things you can do that can help soothe their emotions, like reminiscing, looking through photo albums, or distracting them with a conversation about another topic. Avoid telling them to stop or reminding them that their loved one is deceased since this can start the grief process all over again.
Hallucinations and delusions are also responsive behaviours. The person you’re caring for may begin seeing things that aren’t there or believing things that aren’t true. Do your best to understand where they’re coming from, and as long as they aren’t in any danger try not to intervene. Even though you know that what they’re seeing is a hallucination, it’s very real to them, and saying that it isn’t there might just confuse them more.
Sometimes if hallucinations begin suddenly, they can be a sign of infection or a side effect from a new medication. Talk to their doctor if you think this could be the case.
There’s no perfect solution for responsive behaviours, so use trial an error and try your best to be understanding.
Responsive behaviours are a lot to deal with, but by learning to look for triggers and responding appropriately you’ll make things easier on both yourself and the person you’re caring for.
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