As no two individuals with Alzheimer’s dementia are the same, no two days of caregiving are the same. Depending on the individual(s) you’re caring for, every day, may or may not present difficult challenges in dealing with their behaviors. It’s well understood that their environment will often dictate their behavior and it’s believed that 90% of aggressive behavior is caused by the caregiver. It’s not that they’re being tortured it’s just that the caregivers don’t understand what may be responsible for triggering bad behavior.
I can’t stress enough how important it is for any and all involved in their care to know the individual they are caring for. Not casually know them but really know all about them. What kind of personality did they have? What were their favorite activities in life? What was their daily routine? What was their culture and what were their values? Let’s look at why having these answers are so important. Isn’t it helpful to know if your loved one had a “short fuse” and never handled stress well? Knowing that they loved to sail or are devoted to their family can go a long way to diffuse a situation when they become agitated. Therefore, having a diversion like magazines with pictures of boats or a family album nearby will be very useful. If you’re a professional caregiver, knowing that he used to get up every morning at 5:00 will help you better understand why he’s up and ready to go so early. More importantly, now you’ll be ready to engage him in an early morning activity because telling him to get back to bed is not going to work. Finally, if you know that your loved one was/is strong in their faith or very conservative or reserved in their behavior all their lives, doesn’t that give you some valuable insight into how you should behave around them? Inappropriate behavior like using bad language or a movie or TV show with a questionable theme may create problems for you. Remember, as I’ve said countless times, we have to join their journey, they can’t join ours.
Remember that they don’t process well. When they wake up in the morning, many of your loved ones have no idea where they are. If an inexperienced caregiver enters the room and starts talking in lists, I can promise you things will not go well. So let’s talk a little about what to do when things don’t go well. Regardless of the situation, if your loved one becomes agitated and starts to act out, it’s never a good time to “circle the wagons.” In other words, let one person deal with it and let one person do the talking, not three. Try to determine what happened before they became agitated. Did someone take food from their plate? Did you ask them to do something new that they don’t understand and you’re being impatient? Are they now having to deal with all kinds of external stimulus that they can’t process? Keep a journal of these behaviors and the circumstances in which they occur and don’t forget to share them with their Doctor.
Regardless of the cause of the problem you need to deal with it. Remove them from the area where the issue occurred, hopefully you already know what it is that will divert them and quiet them down e.g. music, a walk, looking at photos or a favorite TV show. Your focus should also be to try to maintain as much normal for them as possible. That translates to having a routine that’s consistent and structured. Breakfast at the same time, bathing or showering at the same time and letting them do as much for themselves as they can, all the time.