One of the more disturbing and challenging behaviors that sometimes occurs in people with dementia is aggression. In fact, it can be downright frightening! Your once even-tempered and kind senior family member may suddenly yell, hit, kick, pinch, or bite. Although the behavior is a symptom of the disease and not personal, it is still a behavior that you need to deal with. Knowing what to do when an older adult with dementia suddenly becomes aggressive can help you to better handle the behavior. Here are 4 ways you can respond to an aggressive episode.
#1: Stay Calm and Allow Some Space
It won’t be easy, but one of the most effective things you can do is to stay calm and speak in a soothing manner. If the person is somewhere that they are safe and will not harm others, put a little space between yourself and them. Sometimes having someone invading their personal space can make a person with dementia uncomfortable and cause them to lash out. Allowing some space can also keep you safe physical aggression. Even if you’re feeling nervous, try not to show it. Your aging relative may pick up on body language or facial expressions that show you are upset, which could escalate the situation.
#2: Avoid Arguing
When aggressive behavior occurs, your goal should be to diffuse the situation, not to be right. Besides, arguing with a person who has dementia isn’t likely to solve any problems since their reality is different from yours. Focus on calming the older adult and try to set aside how what is being said or done makes you feel. You can (and should!) share those emotions with a trusted confidant or your caregiver support group later.
#3: Don’t Gang Up
If more than one person is with the older adult during the episode, don’t gang up on them. Having two or more people coming at them may be frightening and make the situation worse. One person should step back and stay out of the situation as long as no one’s safety is in question. The other person should speak calmly and attempt to calm the senior.
#4: Get Emergency Help If Needed
If you cannot calm the older adult and the situation is becoming dangerous, call 9-1-1 for help. Your safety and the safety of your aging relative is the most important thing in this situation. When you do call, make sure that you explain to the 9-1-1 operator that the senior has dementia and that is what is causing the violent behavior. This will help them respond appropriately to the situation.
If you struggle to deal with difficult behaviors in a family member with dementia, senior care can be a valuable asset. Senior care providers are often experienced in working with seniors with dementia, so they know how to handle the behaviors that often crop up, including aggression. A senior care provider can also help to prevent aggression by helping the older adult to be physically comfortable and seeing to their emotional needs as well.
If you or an aging loved one are considering senior care in Centennial, CO, please contact the caring staff at SYNERGY HomeCare Denver. Call today: (303) 756-9322.