Simple Approach for Difficult Dementia Behaviors

behaviors Aug 30, 2020

Welcome back, Careblazer. 

Today, I want to share with you 2 ways you can approach difficult dementia behavior so that they go away or don’t happen as often. So if your loved one sometimes does things that you find confusing, difficult to manage, and you wish you could get to stop,  this may help. 

If you would rather watch my video on this topic, click here

Before I share these 2 approaches, I want to welcome any new Careblazers. This is the place where we talk about everything about dementia. I’m Natali Edmonds- a board certified geropsycholgoist and I post a new blog and a new YouTube video every Sunday. 

Let’s get started. 

1. Removing the obstacle

The first approach I want to share is the easiest and most preferred whenever you can do it. It can save you and your loved one with dementia a lot of time and energy and whenever it’s possible, I recommend giving this approach a try first. When you're thinking of how to respond to difficult dementia behaviors - try to remove the obstacle or trigger entirely. So rather than trying to change your loved one with dementia, you are changing the environment.


Let me give you a specific example I recently encountered with a Careblazer and then I’ll share other ideas for how you can use this approach. 


I was talking to a Careblazer recently. She cares for her father with dementia. Her father was recently prescribed a new medication and for whatever reason, he had to go through a week where he was not supposed to flush his urine down the toilet immediately after urinating.  So the daughter put a sign on the toilet to remind her dad not to flush the toilet after he goes. A good first attempt. But she was getting upset and frustrated with her dad because he kept flushing. 


As I talked with her, I asked if she could just remove the flush handle to the toilet for one week while he was going through this period. It’s simple for her or her husband to come in after the fact, lift the lid of the tank and flush it that way rather than continuing to battle her dad, remind him of the sign, and then create strain and tension in the relationship. Her initial response to his suggestion was that she didn’t want to do this approach because she wanted to “see” what her dad was capable of and get him to use his abilities. But this approach was leading to stress and strain for her, her dad, and their relationship. Careblazer, in the dementia journey there will be many opportunities for you to “see” how your loved one with dementia is doing. Their struggles and abilities will become apparent as you watch them throughout their day. You do not need to force or create additional situations like this. That will only add to her stress. By removing the obstacle or the trigger - in this case, the flush handle for the week where he was not supposed to flush right away, the obstacle, the challenge is taken care of. No stress. No strain. 


So think about a difficult behavior that your loved one does. Something you wish could change or stop. Is there a trigger or obstacle in the environment that is causing or at least contributing to this? 


Here are some other ideas to help get your creative wheels turning based on my conversations with Careblazers. 

  • Someone who gets confused or scared of their reflection in the mirror can be helped by covering up the mirrors or removing them entirely. 
  • Someone who likes to wander away and leave the house can be helped by disguising doorways with curtains, wall paper, murals, etc. 
  • Someone who always spills their drinks might be able to be helped by serving them their beverages in a plastic cup with a lid. 
  • Someone who gets frustrated or upset when trying to cut their food is always served goods already in bite sized pieces. 
  • Someone who takes too much of their medication because they see it and forget they’ve already taken it can be helped by keeping their medication out of sight or by using an automated pill dispenser.


So think about this Careblazer, is there something that your loved one does that you and/or your LOWD find stressful, difficult, or frustrating AND can you see if there is some type of trigger or obstacle in the environment that you can remove or modify so that it helps prevent or reduce how often the behavior happens? 


That is my challenge to you this week. Think about this and see what you can change. Let me know what you come up with in the comments below. 


I know you are all also facing behaviors that can’t seem to be helped by changing the environment. Don’t let that stop you from giving this challenge a try. I’ve also put together a list of videos I’ve done in the past on how you can approach those other behaviors. To watch this playlist click here.


In the meantime, hang in there. If you found this video helpful in any way, please consider sharing it with another Careblazer.


Thanks again, Careblazer. I’ll be back next week.



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