Dealing with Difficult Behavior in the Elderly
By Dave Bourque, Comfort Keepers, Akron LIVING WELL Magazine
Family caregivers give the greatest gift of all – their love, energy and time – often at the expense of their own families and in lieu of other things they might like to do. Caregiving can be difficult, and caregivers can face challenges every hour of every day…especially when dealing with difficult behaviors from their loved ones.
Difficult behavior can be as simple as refusing to take medicine to as frightening as your loved one wandering during the day or night. Your loved one may become physically or verbally abusive.
Because of the unique emotional ties between a family caregiver and the care recipient, caregivers are at risk of feeling guilty, angry and overwhelmed when dealing with difficult behaviors. They often feel the situation is their fault, but this is far from the truth. In fact, the single-most important thing to know when dealing with difficult behaviors is recipients of care do not act out because they do not appreciate or love the caregiver. They act out as part of the disease .
Often, the elderly become agitated when over-stimulated by loud noise, crowds, and over-activity. People experiencing dementia can become angry or upset when they are forgetful, become lost or realize they cannot do things they used to. Sometimes, they find themselves in a situation that frightens them, and in turn, become overly aggressive and rebellious.
You can help by identifying the triggers of their difficult behavior. If noise or large crowds are the cause, play calm music set at low volume, and limit visitors to a few at a time. Keep happy reminders, such as pictures of family, in plain view. Label rooms (such as the bathroom) and cabinets (for cups and plates) if memory is an issue. When anger rises, speak calmly and try to divert their attention, but leave the room if you have to. Do what you can to maintain the safety of yourself and your loved one.
Ease the situation by remaining calm and remind yourself it’s not your fault. Always remember this moment will pass and request help from family, friends, and support groups.
Above all, give yourself credit by knowing that you are giving the ultimate gift in order to make the life of your loved one easier in times of need. The reward may be bittersweet in the moment, but with a proper frame of mind and a bit of help, the benefits are worth it in the long run…for you, and your loved one.
Dave Bourque is a certified senior advisor and has been helping the elderly for 12 years. Call to see how Comfort Keepers can help with your loved ones.