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Wednesday, 02 August 2017 11:45

Dementia care do’s and don’ts – dealing with dementia behaviour

Mid to late-stage dementia presents its fair share of challenges – the most significant of which being behavioural changes and break downs in communication. Late-stage dementia can often be characterised by paranoid, aggressive and occasionally violent behaviour, and can be difficult for family members and carers to understand and control.

As a carer it is highly recommended that you familiarise yourself with some of the most common situations which may present themselves in the daily life of someone with late-stage dementia.

Aggressive speech or actions

Much of the time aggressive action stems from fear with many late-stage dementia sufferers. Aggression is linked to feelings of helplessness or extreme discomfort in certain scenarios – most commonly when it comes to bathing, eating or a change in environment.

  • What to do: As a carer it’s important to find the root of the cause – what is making them feel so uneasy? Ensure they are not in a situation where they can harm themselves or anyone else and try to shift the focus to something else, in a calm and reassuring manner. If focusing attention on them upsets them even further, it’s best to walk away and give your patient space if they are in a safe environment.
  • Don’t: Focus on their aggression or try to engage in an argument as this will make the situation worse. What your patient needs is a calm, reassuring force.

Confusion about time or place

As a late-stage dementia sufferer living in a nursing facility, one of the most common daily reactions may be confusion as to why they are there and a longing to ‘go home’. There is a physiological component to this, in that most late-stage dementia patients want to go back to a place where they had control in their lives.

  • What to do: The best solution to this is to reply with simple prompts and explanations, using tangible reminders and objects to help them remember where they are. If the confusion persists, it’s best to gently redirect them to another activity, such as going for a walk or getting a snack.
  • Don’t: Over complicate the situation for them and get into long-winded explanations. Try not to reason with your patient, gentle distraction and creating a feeling of safety and comfort is your best option.

Poor judgement or cognitive problems

Some middle to late-stage dementia sufferers will display difficulties with basic tasks: e.g. tallying the tip on a restaurant bill, understanding statistics, long explanations or begin to display stockpiling or hoarding behaviours. The deterioration of brain cells in dementia patients can lead to poor judgment, delusions and untrue beliefs.  

  • What to do: As a carer you will need to assess the extent of the problem discreetly, such as checking their accounts or have your patient work out the restaurant bill to see if things add up. During this time it’s important to remain encouraging and patient when you begin to see these changes happen. Help to minimise their frustration by offering to help in small ways and staying organised at all times.
  • Don’t: Blatantly question your patient’s ability to handle certain situations or try and argue with them. Accusatory and doubtful tones can be a trigger for aggressive behaviour.

As a carer it’s your responsibility to ensure your patient lives a life full of self-worth, no matter the stage of their disease - the best way to ensure this is by fully understanding their behaviours and being prepared.

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