Guardian Carers Feature on BBC News London

How to deal with the difficult behaviours in dementia

Dementia is a difficult condition which affects the lives of around 850,000 people in the United Kingdom alone. One in 14 people will develop dementia by the age of 65. This condition comes with a lot of difficult behaviours and challenges. If you are a family carer or a professional carer who is caring for someone who suffers from dementia keep reading this article.

What causes difficult behaviours in dementia?

With the progression of dementia come more challenges and changes in behaviour. Many of these behavioural changes in dementia include aggression and restlessness. What is the cause of these difficult behaviours in dementia?

When trying to solve such a problem or trying to find the source of the difficult behaviours someone with dementia is having, try to look beyond the condition. Look at how the person with dementia is feeling and try to think like them.

Think about what may be causing this particular difficult behaviour in dementia? There is a myriad of reasons as to why the person with dementia is having a difficult behaviour. Some causes of difficult behaviour in dementia may be:

  • Coping with the challenges of dementia such as memory loss or disorientation
  • The state of their physical and mental health
  • Whether or not they have interaction with the people around them

These are just some of the reasons why someone with dementia may be experiencing some difficult behaviours. Whether you are a professional carer or a family carer you should aim to get to know the person with dementia. This will help to prevent or deal with difficult behaviours in dementia easier.

If you don’t know the person with dementia that you are caring for, you should aim to get the know them. Find out their likes and dislikes, their preferences and the routine they like to follow. Try to get to know the person with dementia on a deeper level, finding out their past and history.

These difficult behaviours in dementia reflect in the person’s personality and habits. Getting to know the person with dementia as well as you can will help prevent such difficult behaviours in dementia. You can be there to support them when they need you to.

How to manage difficult behaviours in dementia

One of the main challenges of dementia is that the people who suffer from the condition are struggling to understand the world around them. This can often be confusing and scary to most of the people who suffer from dementia.

As mentioned before, the best thing you can do is try to see the situation from their perspective if you want to understand what is truly happening to them and lastly be able to manage these difficult behaviours. While you may not understand what this difficult behaviour is or it won’t make sense to you, to the person with dementia it will. Their behaviour is simply their way of trying to feel well again.

While the above applies, you should also know that such changes and difficulties in behaviour may also be caused by physical health problems. These difficult behaviours in dementia can be identified as confusion or agitation.

Do not rule out consulting a medical professional when trying to manage difficult behaviours in dementia. Your loved one/client may be going through something which they cannot express so instead they become distressed or agitated. You should visit a GP so that they can identify whether any physical problems are causing these difficult behaviours in dementia.

Another difficult behaviour in dementia is aggression. The person with dementia is not behaving this way on purpose but might be doing this as a result of changes in their brain or the afore-mentioned physical problems.

These difficult behaviours in dementia may also show you that there are certain needs which are not met. The person with dementia may not be receiving the right care for them or they don’t have much social interaction. This should not be seen as a direct symptom of dementia.

Steps for managing difficult behaviours in dementia

Difficult behaviours in dementia can be managed by the person in charge of care or if needed, by medical professionals. Firstly, if you are the carer of the person with dementia, you should consider a few things which cause these difficult behaviours in dementia, which will help you understand better how to manage the situation:

  • If the person with dementia is well cared for
  • If the person with dementia is living an active and stimulating life
  • If their behaviour poses an immediate threat to them or anyone else around them
  • If they’ve been seen by a GP to asses whether they are in pain or have an infection
  • If the person with dementia is aggressive, what are the reactions to their behaviour
  • If the person with dementia is under medication, have the side effects been accounted for

It is difficult to deal with a person with dementia and their difficult behaviours, whether you are a family carer or a professional carer. But looking out for some common triggers of these difficult behaviours in dementia will help you better manage it day to day. Some of the things you should look out for are:

  • Do these difficult behaviours in dementia happen at the same time each day?
  • Do these difficult behaviours in dementia happen when the person is asked to do something they may not like?
  • Does the person with dementia find the house too dark, cluttered or noisy?

Make a note of these difficult behaviours in dementia and when they happen. This will help you understand the root of the problem and what to do to contain it.

Nevertheless, there are some universal things which you should do when trying to manage the difficult behaviours of a person with dementia. You should try to understand what must be going on inside their mind and be patient and tactful with them.

All in all, you should remember that people with dementia need comfort and reassurance. Whether a family carer or a professional carer, you can be the person who can offer this to them. Encourage them to talk about whatever they want to - they need to feel they are looked at and need to feel the attention and encouragement to be themselves.

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