It’s extraordinarily difficult to take care of someone who is suffering from dementia. The biggest challenge with dementia care is knowing how to effectively handle certain situations that will inevitably, and unexpectedly, occur. A senior with dementia can at times act aggressively, unreasonably, and uncooperatively.
First and foremost, it should be understood that when a senior with dementia acts aggressively, it is not a purposeful act on their part. It is the disease that is causing a reaction to physical discomfort, a new environment, uncomfortable conditions, or the wrong words being said.
When feeling helpless or afraid, seniors with dementia may lash out, at times kicking or hitting people. If this occurs, don’t try to restrain or subdue a senior unless it’s absolutely necessary. Doing so may make the situation worse. Speak calmly and provide reassurance to the senior. Remove the cause of the aggression or relocate the senior to a calmer environment. If at all possible, identify what caused the discomfort or fear and make sure these triggers are avoided in the future.
Those who have cared for dementia patients know that they frequently want to “go home.” This is common among dementia patients whether they live with an at-home caregiver, family member, or memory care-assisted living facility. Clinicians theorize that this happens because Dementia patients desire to return to a time when they were in greater control of their lives. The cognitive damage of Dementia causes seniors to be confused and memory loss frustrates their ability to clearly understand what is happening to them. Coping with this phenomenon is tricky.
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Attempting to explain to a senior why they cannot go home, or leave the facility, won’t work. In fact, no explanation will succeed because the senior’s mind simply cannot receive it and understand it. In this case, a little “white lie” may be the best solution. It is not always possible to reasonably explain a situation and it can be worse to try and argue the point, even if the senior is wrong.
When handling the “go home” issue, caregivers can tell a senior that they can’t leave because traffic is bad or there’s bad weather on the horizon. Both are explanations that should logically make sense to the senior. Otherwise, redirecting their attention by taking a walk, or having a meal, may help.
Other common attributes of dementia patients are unfounded accusations against others, trouble maintaining finances, or conducting simple tasks such as figuring out a tip at a restaurant. The bottom line is knowing that seniors are not doing this on purpose. They don’t want to be confused, angry, or frustrated. It’s the disease.
LivHOME can help to understand these complex situations and how to provide home care for a senior with dementia.