Responding to Behavioural Changes in Dementia with Compassion

Responding to Behavioural Changes in Dementia with Compassion

Behavioural changes are expected in individuals with dementia and can often be challenging for caregivers. Responding to these changes with compassion and empathy is crucial for adequate care. Home Instead is here to guide you on how to interpret and react to these changes in a person-centred way, ensuring that your family member feels understood and respected.

How to Interpret Behavioral Changes

Understand the Root Cause:

Behavioral changes in dementia often stem from unmet needs, frustration, pain, or confusion. Understanding the root cause can help you respond more effectively.

Example: If your family member is pacing or appears restless, they might feel anxious or need to use the bathroom. Observing and identifying potential triggers can guide your response.

Recognize Behavior as Communication:

Behaviors are a form of communication, significantly when verbal skills decline. Each action or reaction can signal an underlying need or emotion.

Example: Aggression might indicate discomfort, fear, or pain. Understanding this helps you address the behaviour more compassionately.

Consider Environmental Factors:

The environment can significantly impact behaviour. Noise, clutter, or changes in routine can contribute to distress.

Example: A noisy and chaotic environment might lead to agitation. Creating a calm and quiet space can help alleviate these feelings.

Tips for Addressing Common Responsive Behaviors with Empathy and Respect

1. Agitation and Restlessness:

Agitation can respond to various factors, including environmental stressors, physical discomfort, or unmet needs.

Example: Identify and remove potential triggers if your family member is agitated. Offer calming activities, such as listening to soothing music or gently walking.

2. Aggression:

Aggressive behaviour can stem from fear, pain, or frustration. It’s essential to remain calm and avoid confrontation.

Example: Speak softly and use calming words. Validate their feelings and gently redirect their attention to a different activity or topic.

3. Repetition:

Repetitive questions or actions are common in dementia. They can be a sign of anxiety, memory loss, or the need for reassurance.

Example: Patiently answer repeated questions and provide consistent reassurance. Engaging in a familiar activity can help distract and soothe them.

4. Wandering:

Wandering can be dangerous and may occur due to restlessness, boredom, or confusion about the time or place.

Example: Secure doors and install alarms to ensure a safe environment. Provide opportunities for safe movement, like walking in a secure garden or hallway.

5. Hallucinations and Delusions:

Hallucinations and delusions can be frightening for the individual and the caregiver. Approach these situations with reassurance and calmness.

Example: Refrain from arguing or trying to convince them that their perception is incorrect. Instead, offer comfort and gently redirect their attention to a different activity.

Responding with Compassion and Empathy

Use Gentle Touch and Body Language:

Physical touch, when appropriate, can provide comfort and reassurance. Gentle gestures and a calm demeanour are equally important.

Example: Hold their hand or offer a gentle hug if they are comfortable. Use open and relaxed body language to convey calmness.

Speak Reassuringly:

Use a soothing tone and reassuring words. Acknowledge their feelings and provide comfort.

Example: Say, “I understand you’re feeling upset. I’m here with you, and we’ll get through this together.”

Provide Choices:

Giving your family members choices can help them feel more in control and reduce frustration.

Example: Offer simple choices like, “Would you like to wear the blue or green shirt?” This empowers them and respects their autonomy.

Create a Routine:

A consistent daily routine can provide security and predictability, reducing anxiety and confusion.

Example: Establish regular times for meals, activities, and rest. Familiar routines help your family members know what to expect, which can be comforting.

Engage in Meaningful Activities:

Activities that your family member enjoys and finds meaningful can reduce behavioural issues and improve mood.

Example: If they enjoy gardening, spend time together tending to plants. If they love music, play their favourite songs and encourage them to sing along.

How Home Instead Can Help

Home Instead is dedicated to providing compassionate and person-centred care for seniors with dementia. Our services include:

  • Personalized Care Plans: Tailored to meet your family member’s unique needs and preferences, focusing on compassionate responses to behavioural changes.
  • Professional Training: Our caregivers are trained in understanding and responding to dementia-related behaviour with empathy and respect.
  • Companionship Services: Providing supportive companionship that fosters positive relationships and reduces behavioural issues.
  • Resource Access: Connecting you with educational resources and community support to enhance your care giving practices.

By interpreting and responding to behavioural changes with compassion and empathy, you can significantly improve the quality of life for your family member with dementia. Home Instead is here to support you every step of the way.

Works Cited

Alzheimer Society of Canada. Person-Centred Language Guidelines. Alzheimer Society of Canada, 2017.