Promoting Positive Interactions

Hello Everyone,

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:

https://bottomlineinc.com/health/memory/dementia-and-inappropriate-sexual-behavior

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.

Have a great week!