Memory Mondays: Challenging Behavior in Dementia

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With the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia often comes symptoms such as restlessness and aggression. Challenging behavior in dementia can be distressing for both the person with cognitive decline and the caregivers involved. In navigating such behaviors, there are a few important things to keep in mind.

Consider where the behavior is coming from. If someone is exhibiting challenging behavior in dementia, think about why they may be acting the way they are. It may be the direct result of changes in their brain or pain from a different health issue about which they cannot communicate. There could be specific triggers or circumstances that cause someone to become aggressive. In any case, it’s crucial to assess the root of the behavior.

Avoid correcting, intervening or reacting negatively. There are times that behavior will be embarrassing, disruptive or uncomfortable. This isn’t necessarily reason to intervene and try to put an end to it. Unless a behavior can be deemed harmful to the person or others involved, letting go can be the best strategy.

Monitor patterns to predict and prevent. Keep track of the details surrounding certain behaviors. Did something happen prior to the behavior starting? Is there a certain time of day that seems more difficult, or certain times of year? Are there certain environments that calm them down, or rile them up? With this information, it may be possible to avoid similar outbursts in the future.

Deploy strategies to get through difficult times. If you’re in the midst of a challenging behavior, consider how to get through it. This may involve validating feelings, showing acceptance, introducing music or items that evoke positive feelings or giving some space.

These are just a few examples of ways to get through challenging behavior in dementia. Above all else, always keep in mind that these behaviors don’t define the person – they’re simply a product of the disease.