Managing Challenging Behaviors In Dementia Care

Alzheimer's disease and other dementias are frequently accompanied by challenging behaviors for which we are unprepared. At times, dementia appears to emphasize an individual's basic characteristics. On other occasions, when dementia develops, personalities appear to change totally.

For instance, a loved one may be punctuating every phrase with curse words they have never spoken in their entire lives. A spouse who has been faithful to his wife throughout their marriage may suddenly attempt inappropriate touching or develop a "girlfriend" at the facility where he resides. Another individual may have always been hospitable and inviting but now refuses to open the door to visitors, screaming at them to leave.

Understanding The Term “Challenging Behaviors”

Whatever you want to call it, the behaviors associated with dementia frequently present a challenge to both the caregiver and the individual experiencing them. Various other terms have been used to describe them, including:

  • Acting out
  • Behavior concerns
  • Behavior changes
  • Behavioral symptoms
  • Behavioral problems
  • Behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia
  • Difficult behaviors
  • Disruptive behaviors
  • Inappropriate behaviors

Does Everyone With Dementia Have Challenging Behaviors?

Certain individuals retain their "pleasantly confused" state throughout their dementia. These folks, for whatever reason, do not get nervous or upset but rather go from progressive forgetfulness to diminished consciousness. However, this is more often than not the exception than the rule.

What Are The Causes

Alzheimer's disease is a brain illness, and the brain is responsible for our behaviors. As a result, not only our cognition and memory are impacted, but also our actions and attitude.

Often, we may use our detective skills to uncover the reason for the behavior, which helps us determine how to respond and attempt to prevent it. There are three types of elements that contribute to the development of problematic behaviors:

  • Physical factors that contribute to challenging behaviors include discomfort or illness
  • Psychological/cognitive factors that contribute to problematic behaviors such as disorientation or paranoia
  • Environmental/external factors such as an overstimulating atmosphere or a change in habit might contribute to challenging behaviors

Knowing how to respond to challenging behaviors can be a real struggle. It's natural to feel upset or disappointed when loved ones become angry or aggressive. Remind yourself that the conduct you are witnessing is a result of the sickness, not the individual's choice, and can assist you in coping with these feelings.

Occasionally, family or friends can benefit from a little getaway if the frustration becomes unbearable. It is acceptable to take a moment for yourself to take a deep breath and then come to your loved one after regaining your composure.

If you wish to learn and understand the common behaviors of seniors with dementia, check out this Senior Strong article today!

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William Rivers is an editor with a master’s degree in Human Services Counseling at Maine State University. He has more than 20 years of experience working in the senior healthcare industry.
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