Understanding Challenging Behaviors in Dementia ClientsMay 2, 2023
Understanding Challenging Behaviors in Dementia Clients
In a study from Columbia University, researchers found that roughly 10% of adults over 65 have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. 10% might not sound like too substantial of a number, but this equals one in 10 individuals. You may not currently know anyone who is impacted by the disease at this point, but the chances are high that you will.
When a loved one is diagnosed with this cognitive disease, you are suddenly inundated with information to learn about the condition. Understanding challenging behaviors in dementia clients is potentially one of the most crucial things a caregiver can do. This will allow you to better understand your loved one and what they need from your to live as comfortably as possible.
What are challenging behaviors?
Blanketing the variety of symptoms one might experience with dementia under “challenging behaviors” may seem rather vague. This is because “challenging behaviors” encompasses a wide variety of issues one might develop as a symptom. These can include behavioral problems, disruptive behaviors, and inappropriate behaviors. A few examples include:
- Suspicion or paranoia
- Anger or agitation
- Physical and verbal aggression
It is possible your loved one may not develop any serious challenging behaviors. Some individuals slip into a state of “pleasant confusion,” which is characterized by gradual forgetfulness and overall decreased awareness. This, however, is not the standard, and should certainly not be counted on.
In what stages of dementia do these behaviors appear?
In the early stages of dementia, many individuals are actively attempting to fight the beginnings of their memory loss. Seniors may begin to develop behaviors such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, as they are doing their best to stick to a routine and prevent mistakes. Others may hoard items, as they either forget that they already had a certain item or they misplace them. It also provides a sense of security knowing they have multiples of an object.
The middle stages may be characterized by anger, aggression, and agitation. This is often due to the decline in reason and logic. People with dementia may begin to develop issues such as paranoia and even hallucinations. This can further exacerbate one’s agitation and aggression.
As the disease progresses into late-stage Alzheimer’s or dementia, seniors may start to be apathetic and withdraw. Usually, there is a reduction of challenging behaviors in this stage. Instead, your loved one will likely need more assistance with personal care activities such as bathing, toileting, and dressing.
Thankfully, your loved one isn’t going to suddenly develop these symptoms overnight. They will slowly start to manifest over the course of several months or even years. However, it’s better to have an understanding of challenging behaviors in dementia clients such as these early on so you can anticipate them and know how to help.
How to respond to these behaviors
No two behavioral concerns can be managed the same way. Finding what works for your loved one will certainly require trial and error, but it will make life easier for both of you.
- Agitation/anxiety—address environmental chaos (reduce noise level and number of people, keep household objects in the same location, play soothing music, safety-proof the home as a preventative measure
- Communication problems—speak clearly, limit distractions when attempting to have a conversation (turn off radio/television), try to interpret the feeling behind words, give reassurance (both verbally and nonverbally)
- Delusions/hallucinations/paranoia—avoid arguing, treat them with dignity and respect, redirect, speak with the doctor to see if medication would help
- Wandering— install door alarms that go off when the door opens, keep a GPS tracking device on their person, add “child safe” covers to doorknobs, keep a current photo with you just in case they get out
How to make these behaviors easier for YOU
It doesn’t matter who you are: managing these symptoms in your elderly loved one is bound to be difficult. However, there are certain things you can do and remember to make the process easier for yourself.
- Accommodate certain behaviors instead of controlling them, as that can cause further agitation
- Anticipate their needs before they arise to keep them comfortable
- Be flexible in your treatment, as their needs may change from day to day
- Be compassionate
- Remember you cannot change their behavior
- Ask for help from family and friends when you need it for the sake of your own mental health
If you need more help, consider hiring an at-home caregiver
Caring for someone with dementia can be physically and emotionally demanding. It’s important you have time to take care of your own well-being too.
If you’re overwhelmed by the amount of work you must complete, consider calling upon the aid of a caregiver. These professionals can provide assistance with the diverse activities of daily living your loved one needs assistance with, allowing both of you to live more fulfilling lives.
For more information on how a caregiver can help you, give us a call at 773-274-9262.
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