Handling Difficult Behaviors

Posted by Dustin DeTorres on September 12, 2014 at 2:35 PM

Dementia and delirium are both conditions that may cause sufferers to exhibit difficult behaviors. To prevent injuries and worsening conditions, caregivers should work to identify the cause of the behaviors. Once causes have been assessed, it may be possible to take steps to mitigate the behaviors. 

Identifying Dementia Behaviors

Since dementia behaviors may be similar to behaviors caused by delirium or other conditions, an examination by a medical professional may help to rule out causes other than dementia. If the cause of behavior changes is delirium, it may be necessary to take immediate action to stop the infection, organ failure, or nutritional deficiencies that may be causing the delirium. If dementia is identified as the cause of difficult behaviors, caregivers can begin modifying care giving techniques and environmental factors in order to decrease the occurrence of difficult behaviors.

Difficult behaviors that are often exhibited by dementia sufferers may include:

  • Aggression towards others
  • Disruptive and uncharacteristic language
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Wandering and pacing
  • Disrobing
  • Frustration with tasks such as dressing or bathing
  • Hoarding
  • Stealing

Role of Caregiver

The role of a caregiver is critical to a dementia sufferer’s quality of life. Caregivers can assist with many vital aspects of daily care, including instituting reminders for daily tasks and appointments, assisting with money management, and other tasks that may become more difficult due to the decline in memory and cognitive functions. Caregivers can also provide emotional support that may help to defer or decrease the effects of the disease.

Mitigating Difficult Behaviors

Caregivers may help to mitigate difficult dementia behaviors by establishing a set routine. This has been shown to comfort dementia sufferers and may help caregivers to identify and avoid behavioral triggers. Caregivers may help to create positive experiences for dementia sufferers by playing favorite music, sitting outside with the care receiver when weather is pleasant, preparing favorite foods, and initiating many other familiar and comforting activities. Having positive experiences has been shown to decrease the occurrence of difficult dementia behaviors while increasing the occurrence of “good days.”  

Tips for Handling Dementia Behaviors

Caregivers providing assistance for dementia sufferers may benefit from the following tips:

  • Do not take difficult behaviors personally
  • Ask questions directly and clearly
  • Be aware of voice inflections and tone, as these may trigger difficult behaviors
  • Avoid arguing or trying to persuade
  • Invite laughter by maintaining humor
  • Distraction and redirection may be useful in halting difficult behaviors
  • Simplify activities and tasks
  • Express affection often



Topics: Alzheimer's and Dementia

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