It can be hard to understand why your loved one is behaving the way he or she does. Dementia changes the brain of the person you love. Through no fault of their own, you might experience unexpected aggression and anger from your loved one.
Often aggression will appear in the later stages of dementia. The first time your loved one is aggressive may surprise you. Your loved one may become angry without warning and yell at you, curse and scream, or even throw something at you.
Being on the receiving end of aggression is heartbreaking and frightening. But remember that your loved one is not in control of these feelings. Aggression and agitation stem from symptoms of the disease and the way his or her brain is changing. Your loved one may be combative as a reaction to feeling confused, frustrated or frightened.
You can learn how to handle the difficult behaviors seen in dementia. This gives you the ability to enjoy your days with your loved one. One of the things that dementia cannot steal from you is love. Research has shown that people with dementia remember feelings and emotions. They can feel love and happiness long after they have forgotten an actual visit or experience.
10 Strategies to Calm Agitation from Dementia
1. Stay Calm
Agitation and aggression are contagious. When you are talking to someone who is agitated and upset, it is natural to feel upset yourself. This phenomenon is called mirroring and you can use it to your benefit.
When you stop and take a deep breath to calm yourself, you are demonstrating calmness. This helps to make your loved one feel safe and reassured. Take a step back and see if you can identify a cause for the agitation, for example, a tense mood in the room. Remember that your loved one is not trying to give you a hard time – he or she is struggling as much as you are.
2. Slow Down
Stop whatever you are doing and slow down. Listen to what your loved one is saying, even if it doesn’t make sense! Don’t correct, as that just increases the agitation. Take a deep breath and remember a positive memory you share with your loved one. Allow that warmth to enter your eyes and look directly at him or her. Smile gently and try to ask for permission for what you need to do or offer help. For example, “can I help you wash the dishes?” Calmness often reassures those with dementia.
3. Focus on Feelings, Not Facts
Dementia can impact a person’s ability to reason and speak but feelings still remain strong. You need to respond to your loved one’s feelings instead of their words. Trying to reason and argue with a person with dementia will only frustrate both of you!
Listen to the expression of frustration even if the actual words don’t make sense. Your loved one might be saying, “I need the car to take to the ball!” You could respond to that expression by saying, “you really are wanting the car today?” Then try to provide clear reassurance. For example, “I will take you out in the car today and we can get what you need.”
4. Bridge Communication Problems
Always treat your loved one with respect. Continue to interact with your loved one with dignity. Although you may see behaviors that remind you of a child, your loved one is not a child. Guarding his dignity will prevent hurt feelings that lead to agitation.
The reality of your loved one with dementia may not agree with the reality that you see. But the feelings that he or she is experiencing is something you can both understand. You can agree with your loved one’s perception of reality without lying. The easiest way to do this is to ask gentle questions about what they are telling you. When your loved one tells you that there is a “strange man” in her kitchen, you can validate the feeling behind it and ask questions. Even if that strange man is actually her husband.
Try saying, “That must be frightening! Would you like me to go check why he is there?”
Other bridging phrases are:
•What is that like?
•Tell me more about….
•It would be so lovely to do that….
5. Limit Distractions
Set your loved one up for success. Dementia causes damage to the brain which makes it difficult to express thoughts and perform tasks. The brain can be overstimulated by background noises, clutter, crowds, or lights. This overstimulation can bring on feelings of restlessness.
Develop an environment of calm in your home. Choose smaller gatherings over crowds as much as possible. One or two visitors will be easier to handle than a room full of talking guests. Turn off the TV when talking to your loved one. The noise of the TV can be difficult for your loved one to block out.
Always aim to simplify your surroundings when you notice signs of agitation. Move into a quieter space. A calm environment will often calm your loved one. Reducing the amount of non-essential items is a great way to increase feelings of calm in a home.
7. Check for Discomfort
Your loved one may have difficulty communicating. They can have trouble telling you if they are uncomfortable. Signs of physical discomfort may be that your loved one is:
•having trouble sitting in one place
•constantly on the move
Notice if the activity seems to be triggering your loved one. If so, try to be proactive in changing the situation or activity. Redirect to a more peaceful and relaxing activity. If a conversation is upsetting either of you, change the direction. Acknowledge what your loved one said and then move to a different topic.
9. Say Yes
Aim to say yes as much as possible. If your loved one mentions that she saw someone who passed away years ago, agree with how lovely that would be to talk to them again. Even build on it and ask what they talked about. This gives you both a sense of connection and comfort with one another.
“Yes” is a powerful and affirming word. Saying “yes” let’s your loved one know that you understand what is important to him or her. That you hear them. That you are listening.
Even though the reality your loved one is experiencing is different from yours, you can still find common ground.
Dementia CANNOT steal the love from your relationship. It only has the power to change that relationship.
Remember that you can only count on today. Enjoy the moments that you have. Listen to music together, dance, play an instrument, offer a massage, or brush your loved one’s hair. Go for a walk outside and listen to the bird’s songs or look at flowers. As Alzheimer’s and dementia progress, the world is largely experienced through senses. Express your love through touch, sounds, sight, tastes and smell.
Dementia, particularly dealing with the aggression and agitation, can be challenging for caregivers. Remember the importance of your connection with your loved one. Provide a soothing environment and aim to remain calm and loving. Empathize with your loved one’s feelings and always emphasize love.
This information is being shared from an article from Home Care Assistance