How to deal with changing behaviour in Dementia
One of the characteristics of dementia is that of behaviour changes. You and your loved one will have to get used to this. To help you with this, ‘How to deal with changing behaviour in Dementia’ has been written. This and the next 4 topics (blog posts) help you to understand the change in behaviour of your loved one and gives you tips on how to deal with it better.
What is aggressive behaviour? Dementia can cause people to react aggressively in situations and towards other people, whereas such a reaction would not have been seen (so intense) at all in the past. The disease makes that they can no longer fully oversee situations, or that they feel threatened. People with dementia respond to threats in an unrestrained way. This can result in defensive or aggressive behaviour. Examples of this behaviour are kicking, hitting or swearing.
Your interaction is changing!
It is good to realize that your loved one does not always show this behaviour consciously. The person you are caring for is no longer the same as for the disease. Many caregivers have a hard time dealing with this. They often unconsciously treat their loved one in the same way as they did before the disease. To better deal with the aggressive behaviour of your loved one, it is important that you understand where this behaviour comes from.
Causes and possible solutions
Six different factors can cause aggressive behaviour of people with dementia: the dementia itself, their life course, their personality, the space around them, the people around them and their physical body. You cannot do anything about all some of those factors. Meaning you cannot change life’s course of your loved one, their personality or the illness itself. It is important to pay attention to these causes so that you better understand where the behaviour comes from.
Aggressive behaviour can be caused by the dementia itself. Your loved one is increasingly confronted with the things that he or she no longer understands, recognizes or oversees and loses control of his / her environment. When the memory fails your loved one, sadness, frustration and powerlessness can turn into an aggressive response. Someone’s inhibitions are lost, and emotions come to the surface
What people have experienced in their lives can influence the aggressive behaviour. For example, someone who has often been in threatening situations and is confronted with images of war on television can suddenly become angry or aggressive.
Someone who used to like to be in control, will be more frustrated if things are taken out of their hands. And if the person with dementia has always been short fused, then it can happen that minor irritations are enough to evoke an aggressive reaction.
The next factors can be influenced, in other words: you might be able to do something about it:
The area in which someone with dementia is located can influence the aggressive behaviour. It is too messy, too busy or just too quiet. Too hot or too cold. Your loved one may feel irritated because something does not feel right. And because your loved one cannot tell what is wrong, an aggressive reaction can arise. Be alert to the fact that the surroundings influences the behaviour of your loved one. If you notice that he or she becomes restless in a certain room, see if there are too many or too few stimulants. And then intervene, calmly and on time.
People in their inner circle
Your behaviour, or that of someone else in the vicinity of your loved one, can effect the aggressive behaviour. People with dementia can be scared of unexpected situations. Like an acquaintance who suddenly appears and starts a conversation. Your loved one may not recognize the acquaintance (immediately) and will feel threatened by this.
As an informal caregiver you can also take over too many tasks from your loved one, while these (possibly with some guidance) can still be perfectly performed by him or her. This can lead to frustration because your loved one would prefer to keep doing this him or herself. Try to keep calm, make eye contact and do not raise your voice. Tell your loved one that you are shocked by the behaviour and suggest talking about it. Try to tell family and friends how they can best deal with your loved one. So that they don’t, with the best of intentions, suddenly confront your loved one. Don’t take on too many tasks if you don’t have to and try to make sure that your loved one feels useful. Only offer help if someone asks for it or if you can take over something silently.
Aggression can be a way to express physical complaints, because your loved one can no longer properly state or explain what is going on. You can think of pain, a bladder infection, disrupted blood sugars or certain medication. It is also possible that someone does not see or hear well and as a result reacts angry or irritated. If you suspect that your loved one has a physical complaint, try to be alert to this and ask for the cause as specifically as possible. Take the time to do this. Consult the doctor if you feel that there is also a physical cause.
We hope that we have been able to help you a little in your effort to deal a little better with the aggressive behaviour of your loved one. Realize well that not all solutions that you come up with will work (immediately).
Did you enjoy the article? You might also be interested in the following blogs; Suspicious behaviour, how to deal with this, Handling wandering behaviour of people with dementia.
Or check Dementia-Friendly Singapore on facebook or theAsianparent Singapore