Part 3: Ways to Reduce & Manage Mean Behavior
1. Calm the situation down The first thing to do is reduce the tension in the room. Start by limiting the distractions in the room, like turning off the TV or asking others to leave. And if you stay calm, they’re also more likely to calm down. Repeat to yourself “it’s the disease” as a reminder that they’re not intentionally doing this. If the current activity seemed to cause the agitation, try shifting to a more pleasant, calming activity. Or, try soft music or a gentle massage. 2. Comfort and reassure while checking for causes of discomfort or fear Take a deep breath, don’t argue, and use a calm, soothing voice to reassure and comfort your older adult. It also helps to speak slowly and use short, direct sentences. Then, check for possible causes of agitation or fear. It also helps to focus on their emotions rather than their specific words or actions. Look for the feelings behind what they’re doing as a way to identify the cause. 3. Keep track of and avoid possible triggers Think about what was going on just before the behavior started and write that down as a possible trigger. Having everything in one notebook helps you find possible causes for the behavior. For example, if your notes show that your older adult gets angry and starts calling you names around 4pm on most days, it could be because they haven’t eaten since noon and they’re hungry. They may not realize it or don’t know how to ask for food. To test your theory, try giving them a snack around 3:30pm to see if that helps prevent the outbursts. 4. Check for a urinary tract infection A urinary tract infection (UTI) can put a lot of stress on your older adult’s immune system. That can cause sudden, unexplained behavior changes like difficult behaviors, more agitation, or being less responsive than usual. 5. Consider an adult day program You might also consider enrolling your older adult in an adult day program. These are places where your older adult would go for a half or full day of activities and socialization. Interacting with other people and participating in a variety of enjoyable activities can reduce stress and help them sleep better. That can improve their overall behavior and reduce their need to act out. 6. Attend a caregiver support group Caregiver support groups are filled with people who really understand what you’re going through. Talking with other caregivers gives you an important outlet for stress. You can vent your frustrations so it will be easier to stay calm when your older adult is being hurtful. Fellow caregivers may also have helpful advice or perspective that can help you get through a difficult episode. 7. Lean on family, friends, and other help to get a break Always being around the same person can make anyone annoyed and short-tempered. This goes for both you and your older adult. Taking some time away can help both of you. Ask family and friends to take over for a few hours or hire some professional help. Taking regular breaks gives you a chance to take care of yourself and gives you both a little time away from each other. We have caregivers available to help on days and times that suit your needs. Call today to schedule a brief consultation (703-256-8830).
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