Anger and Aggression
Many of us are dealing with loved ones who have dementia, be it Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body, Frontotemporal, vascular, or any of the other dementias out there. What has been noticed is that there are several behaviours that present themselves and we have decided to address the most common ones over the next few months in our blogs. These behaviours may present themselves over the course of a few hours a day, or even from one week to the next. I know when we were learning about my mother’s condition, we saw a lot of different behaviours, from suspicions about people stealing her things, to bouts of anger and anxiety surrounding different events. I have decided to share some of what I learned over the years along with what a lot of the experts say we should do when dealing with various behaviours. Here at My Place Home Care, we use the Positive Approach to Care and want to share some of our insights with you.
Let us start with what some of the most common behaviours are, there is anger and aggression, anxiety and agitation, forgetfulness and confusion, repetitive actions, new suspicions, wandering and getting lost and trouble with sleep. We must keep in mind that behind every behaviour is an underlying need. According to the Dementia Society there is a basic three-step approach in understanding and finding solutions to the most common behaviours that is used by professionals all over our country.
- Examine the behaviour.
- What was the behaviour – was it harmful?
- Did something trigger the behaviour?
- What happened immediately after the behaviour?
- Could something be causing the person pain?
- Could this be related to medications or illness? Consult a doctor to be sure.
- Explore potential solutions.
- Are the persons needs being met?
- Can adapting the surrounding comfort the person?
- How can you change your reaction or approach?
- Try different responses.
- Did your new response help?
- Do you need to explore other potential solutions? If so, what can you do differently?
Here at MPHC, we always say that instead of trying to bring a person with dementia into our world, we need to live in their world.
We will look at each behaviour separately in a blog post and discuss the best ways for us as caregivers to respond to each behaviour.
The first one identified in our list is anger and aggression. We have all experienced burst of anger or aggression from someone we love suffering from dementia. It can be verbal abuse, or physical hitting. You may be asking yourself, I am just trying to help my mom, why is she so abusive. Then since you may or may not understand what is happening, patience is lost, and we accomplish nothing. So instead, let us try to take a step back and figure this one out. Let us start with how to best respond:
- Rule out pain – it can be a trigger.
- Try to identify the immediate cause – what exactly was happening when they reacted- if it was something you said or did – say I AM SORRY FOR HAVING UPSET YOU…
- Focus on feelings and not facts – look at the feelings behind the words or actions, forget about facts – they are not relevant here.
- DO NOT GET UPSET – this one is easier said than done– try to stay positive – speak slowly and in soft tone- never raise your voice.
- Limit distractions – try to look around and see if something in the room created the problem – remove it if necessary.
- Engage in relaxing activities – music, reading, massage are just some examples of relaxing activities.
- Distract with another activity – your loved one may be angry because they are not having success with a current activity.
- Always try to remain calm and speak calmly to your loved one.
- Take a break – you can walk away so long as your loved one is safe.
- Always ensure safety.
Our next blog on behaviours will explore anxiety and agitation also sundowning.