Nearly 55 million people worldwide are living with some form of dementia, while millions more are impacted as family and professional caregivers. When coping with some of the challenging behaviors which often come with a dementia diagnosis it’s important to remember how to prevent or appropriately respond to anger and aggression to help you and your loved one stay safe while navigating the situation effectively.
How to help someone with Dementia
As a caregiver coping with the manifestations of dementia, you may experience one or more of the three levels of dementia behaviors — common, challenging, and potentially harmful — in the person you’re caring for. Regardless of which level you encounter, the Alzheimer’s Association recommends the following:
Create a calm environment by removing stressors.
Sometimes noises, light glare, or overstimulation from things going on in the background — such as keeping the television on — can trigger some of these behaviors.
Monitor personal comfort continuously.
Your loved one may not be able to easily communicate when they need help or are experiencing issues with normal function such as pain, hunger, thirst, constipation, a full bladder, fatigue, infections, or skin irritation. Be conscious of their environmental stimuli and ensure the room temperature is always set to a comfortable level.
Be sensitive and proactive to the changes they’re experiencing.
A person with dementia may start having debilitating fears that weren’t present before. Remember to be mindful about what is causing them to feel afraid and what they may now be perceiving as a threat so you can be proactive in minimizing the anxiety these fears cause. As their condition progresses, remember to be sensitive to the understandable frustration which can come from being unable to effectively express their personal needs.
Simplify tasks and routines.
Keeping things simple and routine will help regulate their day-to-day activities. Even clearing away extra items can help keep daily frustrations to a minimum.
Provide opportunities for exercise.
Taking the time to spend time going for walks, gardening together, or dancing to their favorite music can help your loved one stay physically sharp while giving you a natural opportunity to keep an eye on their care and progression.
Coping with aggressive dementia behaviors
It’s not uncommon for someone with dementia—including its most common form, Alzheimer’s—to express anger in an aggressive or physical way. You will never hear a person with dementia state something like “I’m getting angry and frustrated right now, so I’m going out to blow off some steam.” When a person with dementia is frustrated, they may get angry, which can result in uncontrollable crying, hitting, striking out, yelling, or other physical aggressions. Your priority is to keep everyone involved safe, so assess the situation first to see if there’s imminent danger to either of you, but here are things to consider when you need to help someone with dementia to calm down:
- Stay calm so you don’t escalate the situation.
- Don’t tell them what they’re doing or feeling is wrong.
- Talk softly and reassure them with phrases like, “Everything is alright” or “I’m here for you and will help you.”
- Offer a favorite treat.
- Soothe them by using a gentle touch or playing music.
- Redirect their behavior so they can focus on something else.
- Be clear about what you want them to do using positive language (“Let’s sit down over here.” vs. “Stop doing that.”)
- Don’t attempt to restrain them unless it’s necessary for your or their safety.
If you are a family member and need some assistance, a home health aide can help with activities of daily living or social activities that will help keep your loved one feeling safe, calm and content.
Caring for a parent or patient with dementia at home
Home health care is a popular alternative to staying in a facility or other unfamiliar environments for many people, including those with dementia. While home is often a preferred setting, it’s important to make sure the environment is safe and as your loved one’s condition progresses that their caregivers are experienced and knowledgeable in dementia care. Easy ways to keep a loved one with dementia safe at home:
Making some items and areas less accessible.
For instance, if you’re focusing on the kitchen, make sure potential hazards such as sharp knives, an oven, and toxic cleaning materials are off limits.
Making other items and areas more accessible.
Highlight areas where the person you’re caring for can have access to, such as the refrigerator or certain drawers and cupboards. Draw attention to these safe areas by labeling them with big bold words and colors. Maintain a consistent standard across the home to help ensure the person you’re caring for knows what’s OK and what isn’t.
Clearing clutter and hazards.
In addition to strengthening the safety of individual rooms, it’s also important to ensure common walking areas and hallways are clear of clutter, crumpled rugs, and other hazards to reduce the risk of falling.
Securing and monitoring exits.
Sometimes people with dementia will wander outside their home, which can put them in danger. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends installing alarms or deadbolt locks out of the line of sight, either high or low, on exterior doors. (Never lock a person inside their home when they are alone! It’s a safety and fire hazard). Additional camera monitoring can be installed in the home, and registering the person you’re caring for with the Alzheimer’s Safe Return Program—a nationwide emergency response service from the Alzheimer’s Association—is also a great option.
BAYADA provides support for caregivers
Even in the best of situations, family caregivers often need additional support—whether that’s every day or occasionally. When and if that time comes, the home health care professionals at BAYADA are ready to assist you and your loved one on their journey. For resources, support, or information about how BAYADA can help your loved one, call (888) 864-2025 or contact us for services today.