Try This Step-by-Step Plan to De-Escalate Aggressive Alzheimer’s Behaviors

iStock_000067510879_SmallOne of our goals at Nightingale Homecare is to place caregiving tools in the hands of those struggling to provide senior care to a beloved family member suffering from dementia, knowing how difficult it can be to know where to turn when challenges seem insurmountable. We’ve previously shared some tips on how to recognize and diffuse the combative, aggressive outbursts that Alzheimer’s patients sometimes exhibit, and we have a few more tips to help caregivers de-escalate these challenging behaviors.

And so, for the next time you find yourself confronted with an aggressive episode, we offer you the following steps to help restore a sense of calm and peace:

  • Avoid aggressive signals, such as clenching fists or crossing arms.
  • Maintain caring eye contact, while trying not to stare aggressively at your loved one.
  • Breathe slowly and deeply.
  • Stand at a slight angle, at least two arm lengths away, avoiding fully-facing the agitated person to protect the chest and abdomen if he or she suddenly hits or kicks.
  • Keep the nearest door open, and position yourself between the loved one and the door, so that he or she is not blocking the exit if you will need to leave quickly.
  • If possible, position yourself so that there is a piece of furniture between you and your loved one, for further protection.
  • Speak in a firm, calm voice.
  • Watch the tone and volume of your voice. Keep it low, as most people tend to raise both their tone and volume when excited or threatened, resulting in high-pitched yelling.
  • Say something that helps your loved one to know that you understand his feelings: “Mom, I can see that you’re really upset, and I want to help.”
  • Treat your loved one with dignity and respect, and never threaten or belittle the person for the behavior.
  • Don’t argue or try to reason with your angry loved one, such as saying, “I do not always forget your newspaper.”
  • If possible, try to “undo” whatever has made the person agitated. For example, if combative behavior resulted when you approached your loved one to give him a bath, back off and leave him alone for awhile.
  • Distracting him with his favorite activity can also be effective: “Dad, your favorite TV show is on now, would you like to watch?”
  • When trying to de-escalate a loved one’s behavior when more than one caregiver or family member is present, it is helpful if only one person talks, to avoid confusing or frightening the loved one.

Safety is the top priority when dealing with a combative loved one. If family or caregiver safety is threatened, you should leave the area immediately, and get any other persons to safety, if needed. If the situation is extreme enough that you cannot effectively handle it, the police should be promptly called to assist.

Nightingale Homecare’s dementia care program, “Connections,” has helped numerous families and patients succeed in living safely at home with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. We provide innovative, empathetic, and thoughtful care that has real impact in the lives of those living with Alzheimer’s.

When it comes to choosing an Arizona home care company for your loved one, trust the agency that trains its clinical professionals and caregivers in the “Alzheimer’s Whisperer” program, implemented and guided by Dr. Verna Benner-Carson, a national dementia care expert. For expert home care based on deep understanding of those living with dementia, call Nightingale at 602-504-1555 or contact us online to speak with a dementia senior homecare specialist today.