Hey there Careblazer! In this video, I talk about how to prevent your loved one's anger or frustration from getting worse. I share 10 tips to help reduce their anger and calm them down.
It’s common for people with dementia to sometimes accuse people of stealing things, see things that aren’t there, or simply just see you as someone trying to get in the way of them living life the way they want. Usually, the person giving them the most care (that's you!) gets the brunt of the anger. These situations often lead to anger and frustration...but they don’t have to.
Sometimes, it can seem like your loved one gets upset, frustrated, or violent completely out of the blue. Sometimes, it can seem like there is no clear trigger or sign of what caused them to get upset. That can be especially frustrating for you, because you have no idea what is causing the situation. Otherwise, if you did know what was making your loved one upset, you could to fix it so your loved one would be better.
To make matters worse, your loved one with dementia often can't tell you what's wrong. They either can’t find the words they need to communicate. OR what they do communicate doesn’t make any sense to you. OR they might be seeing things that aren't there (hallucinations) or believing something that is not true (delusion).
These situations can be challenging. And although we can’t prevent these situations from occurring all together, you can find ways to calm your loved one quicker to avoid making things worse.
How many of you have had the situation of trying to figure out what is wrong with your loved one only to wind up you and your loved one being more angry and frustrated? It’s quite common.
So follow these tips to help reduce the chances of these situations from getting worse.
1- Don’t raise your voice.
It's easy to raise your voice when you are upset or when you are trying to talk to someone who is angry. Also, people with dementia often have hearing problems making it sometimes necessary to talk loud. Be careful not to talk too loud when your loved one is angry since this can make things worse.
2- Be mindful to not approach them quickly or fast.
People with dementia sometimes get confused easily and have hard times understanding situations. When you approach someone with dementia too quickly, they may think you are trying to attack them.
3- Don’t have your hands out or in front of them as you respond.
Remember even though you are trying to help, you have to look at it through your loved one’s eyes. When situations are making your loved one upset, angry, frustrated, it’s often because they are scared, they don’t understand what’s going on, or they believe something to be going on that isn’t actually happening. They might not understand that you are trying to help and see your hands as threatening.
4- Do not argue. Don’t.
No explanation necessary here. It doesn't work when your loved one with dementia is calm and it certainly won't work when they are angry.
5- When you try to talk to them, get down on their level.
When you are talking to your loved one who is upset, sit by them or kneel down by them so that it’s less threatening. If your loved one with dementia is at risk for hitting, be mindful of the distance between you and your loved one during these times.
6- Approach them from their dominant side.
People with dementia tend to focus more and do better when you approach them from their dominant side. If they are left-handed, approach them from the left. If they are right-handed, approach them from the right. This may seem like a small thing, but when trying to calm someone with dementia, any little bit of extra help is worth the try!
7- Use as few words as possible.
It’s hard for people with dementia to process a lot of information and it is especially worse if they are upset. Use short sentences in a calm voice.
8- Restate what they are saying in a calm, comforting way.
You don't have to correct your loved one if they are saying something that is not accurate. Simply re-state what they are saying. Let them know you hear them and are listening. If your loved one is saying that there is a scary man outside of the door, then you would say something like, “There’s a man outside the door? That’s not good. Let me take care of that. You are safe. Here come with me and let’s get settled." Then offer a snack, a drink while you “go take care of the problem.” Then do your best to redirect your loved one in something they would enjoy. In some cases, you may not be able to understand what is upsetting your loved one. This is where the next tip comes into play.
9- Play detective.
Try to rule out the common reasons for distress. For people with dementia, common reasons for anger include: pain, hunger, toilet needs.
Make sure you don’t ask them about questions until you either find out what it is they want/need OR, until you’ve successfully redirected your loved one and they are no longer focused on whatever was making them angry.
10- Give positive encouragement and feedback throughout the situation.
As you try to calm your loved one and redirect them to something that takes their mind off of the situation, make sure to thank them. Say thank you when they walk with you, or for holding your hand, or for sharing something. Tell them how great they look in their shirt. Whatever you need to do, just find some ways to sprinkle some kind, and encouraging words throughout the situation. This can make a big difference in distracting your loved one with dementia and making them feel better.
When your loved one is showing anger or frustration, they are having a hard time. They may not understand something, or they understand things to be very different than they actually are in real life. As you try to work through some of these tips, keep in mind that you have to join their world.
I promise your loved one isn’t trying to purposefully give you a hard time in these situations, they are having a really hard time and often don’t understand you are trying to help them.
Careblazer, I hope these tips help. Remember, the goal of these tips to prevent accidentally making things worse for you and your loved one. The goal isn’t that your loved one will never have a situation where they are in distress- that’s not realistic and chances are very high that they will continue to have difficult situations in the future. The goal is that you are able to calm them as quickly as possible without getting you or your loved one more worked up.
What do you think? Which of the above tips did you find surprising or most helpful. Let me know by leaving a comment below and I’ll see you over in the private Careblazer Facebook group right here.
All my best!