3 Mistakes in handling dementia related problem behaviors
Trovato often helps clients who are experiencing “problem behaviors.” Problem Behaviors: “behaviors that are harmful to the person with dementia or others.”
The most obvious problem behavior is physical aggression. However, less common problematic behaviors are overlooked including: wandering, pacing, entering others’ rooms, collecting items, rearranging items, taking food from another resident’s plate, increased need for affection, etc.
Mistake 1: Less obvious problem behaviors are overlooked as they are dismissed as symptoms of dementia. However, failure to properly manage them can cause distress/harm to others and potentially harm the person exhibiting the behaviors.
During my time as the director of a dementia unit, a resident walked the long hallways, entering the apartments at the end of each hallway, taking items from these apartments, and putting them in other apartments.
I know what you’re thinking: Lock the doors and prevent her behavior. However, this could resident other’s ability to enter their room freely.* Due to impairment in memory and/or problem solving abilities, a person with dementia may not be able to use a key. So this is not a solution and it does not get to the root of the problem.
Mistake 2: One of the biggest mistakes I see in dementia care is attempting quick fixes, like locking the doors, that do not have long term benefits. On the contrary, quick fixes often have undesirable long term consequences. Rather than trying to offer a quick fix, try to understand the behavior and come up with better alternatives.
One day, this resident entered an apartment where another resident saw her as an intruder and in an effort to protect his home, he pushed her. In this case, the physical aggression he exhibited was a result of the behavior the she exhibited initially. Therefore, wandering, even in a safe environment, is a problem behavior.
Mistake 3: Choosing to address the more obvious problem behavior (physical aggression) and ignoring the initial problem behavior and trigger (the wandering).
When working with people with dementia, it is important to look at all factors. There are no quick fixes. When Trovato is called in to help a client with problematic behaviors, we explain to those involved that it could take weeks or longer to determine the best solution. We can offer techniques to minimize the behaviors immediately but in order to truly improve the quality of life for the person with dementia and reduce these behaviors; we need time to understand the whole person and the whole picture. Be patient, be thorough, and trust the professionals!