According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 9 Americans age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s disease. With such high prevalence, most of us have been touched by this disease either personally and/or professionally.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys all cognitive abilities, eventually leading a person to be unable to carry out the most basic of tasks. Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias can affect a person’s ability to understand information and make their needs known. This can result in confusion, irritation/agitation, stubbornness, and argumentative and verbally abusive behavior. By understanding this, we can utilize some simple strategies to help manage and prevent difficult behaviors in residents with Alzheimer’s/dementia.
Approach with care
· People, including those with dementia, are usually uncomfortable when others get too close. Respect their need for personal space.
· If you are going to touch someone, first tell them what you are going to do.
· Residents with dementia are especially sensitive to nonverbal cues. Smile reassuringly and use gentle touch to calm the resident.
Be aware of paraverbal communication
· Paraverbal communication is the tone, volume, rate, and rhythm of your speech.
· Similar statements can have completely different meanings based on paraverbals used.
· Be sure paraverbal communication is consistent with the message you want to send.
Call the resident by name and introduce yourself
· Calling the resident by their name helps get their attention.
· Remind the resident who you are – if you ask them to identify you, you may increase frustration and agitation.
Keep it short and simple
· Give directives one step at a time.
· State what you want the resident to do and show them at the same time.
· It can take up to 30 seconds for a resident with dementia to process information and respond.
· Try to understand how the resident is feeling rather than argue the facts of a situation.
· Fear and confusion can often affect behavior.
· Offer choices when possible.
· Try to remember personal preferences.
· When you encounter resistance, try a different approach.
Director of Clinical Services