In addition to the information we provided about inappropriate sexual behavior in last week’s tidbit, Dr. Elizabeth Galik, one of the investigators on our study, has written an article on this topic for Bottom Line Health. You can read it online here:
This week, we’d like to discuss how to approach a resident with challenging behaviors in a way that can result in more positive interactions between the caregiver and resident. For example, if a resident scratches, swears or tries to hit a nursing assistant while she is helping the resident with morning care, how does that experience affect her? How will she approach her next encounter with the resident later in the day?
First, we as caregivers should be mindful that people with the dementia are exhibiting these challenging behaviors because of their disease. By not taking their angry words or actions towards us personally, we can objectively think about effective ways to react to their behavior that can result in increased expressions of wellbeing by the resident. Here are some ideas to help:
Before approaching a resident that you know can be challenging based on past experiences, take a deep breath and acknowledge your feelings. Are you angry? Anxious? Frustrated? If you enter the resident’s room while projecting these feelings, the resident will often pick up on them and respond accordingly. Try to “reset” yourself before you approach the resident and start with a clean emotional slate.
Put aside your expectations of what the resident will do. These expectations can turn into self-fulfilling prophecies.
Take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of the resident. Are they scared? Frustrated? Sad? In pain? If they aren’t able to articulate their feelings verbally, they will do this through their behavior. Try to figure out what they may be trying to communicate.
Remember the TMT-TMT rule: Too Much Talk and Too Much Touch by the caregiver can sometimes over-stimulate and agitate a resident. In these cases, a simple gesture and silent cuing may suffice. Also be aware of your body language. Standing over a resident can result in a “fight or flight” response. How would you feel if someone stood over you and tried to shove a toothbrush in your mouth?
Now, smile and take a few minutes to sit eye-to-eye with the resident (not standing over him), and talk about something you know the person enjoys….sports, upcoming holidays, weather, pets, etc. Starting with some brief moments of calm can have a positive impact on the rest of your visit and help establish trust.
You may have heard something similar to this before—while you cannot control the behavior of a person, you CAN control your response to it. Keep this in mind this week and see if this changes the way you interact with some of your residents.
To change how everyone in your settings manages behavioral and psychological symptoms associated with dementia, we need all hands on deck! Your identified champions are your leaders and role models. These individuals play a vital role in implementing the strategies we want all staff to use when working with residents with behavior and psychological symptoms of dementia.
Champions (along with other stakeholders such as administrators, nurses and social workers) not only act as role models, but also cheerleaders, teachers and observers. Encourage your champions to take a few minutes and watch the ways in which their co-workers interact with residents to make sure they are following the resident’s care plan and using person centered approaches during care interactions (e.g., having the individual participate in his or her bathing and dressing; walking the individuals to the bathroom regularly to avoid agitation; or singing the resident’s favorite song during an unpleasant care interaction). Acknowledge, praise and reward the individual when an effective behavioral intervention is implemented. Examples of such acknowledgments include:
A simple “Great job, keep up the good work!”
A write up in a newsletter recognizing their exemplary work
A Starbucks gift certificate (or an alternative treat!)
Conversely, when champions witness missteps by staff during resident interactions, they should turn these into opportunities to teach their colleagues a better way to handle those situations. Role modeling a better way is one of the best ways to make new learning happen. For example, when a caregiver tells a resident who is repeatedly getting up and down in an unsafe fashion to sit down they might fall…. And the resident persists and gets more agitated….it may be helpful to step in and show that taking the resident for a walk or having him or her stand and sing and dance for a minute or two may decrease the agitation.
Staying positive, encouraging and persistent is key to changing the habits of staff and building a strong team of caregivers who help one another.
We’ve talked about how encouraging residents to participate as much as possible in their own care can help maintain or even increase function and decrease negative behaviors. Let’s remember that residents with moderate to severe dementia can have fun too!
How often do we see a group of residents participating in a recreational activity, but notice that at least a few of them are left out? Sitting in the corner looking on? Often, these more “challenging” residents are the people who most need to be active and engaged in activity so they avoid feelings of frustration, agitation, and boredom.
To help with this, here are some activity ideas that your nurses, nursing assistants and recreation staff can use to get residents with cognitive decline in on the fun:
Flyswatter volleyball: Give residents plastic flyswatters have them hit a balloon back and forth to each other
Dance, dance, dance! Turn off those televisions and turn on some music and dance. Have staff members take turns playing music from their iPods through a speaker. Fast or slow, old or new, music has the power to move everyone.
Horseshoes: Now that summer is here, horseshoe games are everywhere. Look for the foam kind and play inside or outside on a patio. Residents can play while standing or sitting.
Foam swim noodles: Get a bunch of these, cut them in half, and start bending. These make for great resistance exercises! Leave them out in common areas for a safe, easy way to start spontaneous exercise.
Movement scarves: These can be found on enasco.com, or you can make your own with a lightweight material. Toss these colorful scarves in the air and have residents try to catch them. These scarves can be better than throwing a ball back and forth since people with slower reflexes and limited hand flexibility can catch them more easily.
Chores! Yes, chores. Your kids might not agree, but for older adults with dementia, doing familiar household chores can be calming and comforting. Grab a basket of cloth napkins and ask them to help you by folding them. Give them a broom and ask them to help you sweep the floor since company will be coming. Get some pillowcases or old clothes, hang a clothesline between a few walls, and give them some clothespins. They can hang the laundry.
Don’t forget to go outside! Warmer days are here now, so in the morning or early evenings when it’s a bit cooler, go outside. The sunshine, change of scenery and fresh air is something we all need. Look at the flowers, look for birds, and have some lemonade.