The Art of Being an Effective Dementia Care Detective

Responding to challenging behavior for people living with dementia is often the greatest triggers of stress,  helplessness and frustration for professional and family caregivers.  Learning to be an effective dementia care detective incorporates knowledge of behavioral expression and having effective tools to respond, reassure and comfort.

Understanding and empathy are invaluable learning components for any caregiver or person working with people living with dementia.  When we step into their world, even for a brief time and experience what they might go through 24/7,  we gain a unique but powerful inside-out perspective of their world.

When we experience their frustration, helplessness, loss of control, feelings of inadequacy and lack of self confidence, our perspective of their world changes dramatically.  This “Wow, I had not idea” moment is powerful and unforgettable.

Taking this to new heights of learning requires more than the “Wow” moment.  Applying what we learn to understanding root causes of behavioral expression is critical.  All behavioral expression is a form of communication that expresses an unmet need.  If a person living with dementia has been robbed of language and logic, for instance, the caregiver must fine tune his or her dementia detective skills to determine what the needs are of their care partner.

Because a person living with dementia has slower brain processing speed, feeling rushed or overwhelmed by overstimulation or a caregiver’s lack of patience can often cause outbursts.  Simple communication tools might be too slow down our speech, use reassuring touch and communicate just one thought at a time can have an enormous effect on that person’s sense of coping and confidence.

Dementia care detective work requires patience and persistence to unlock the underlying cause of behaviors.   Aggression can be caused by disrupted sleep patterns often experienced by those living with dementia.  If this is the case, then care partners might try skilled touch, music or other therapies to help that person fall asleep and stay asleep.  Although change is difficult for persons with dementia, making small alterations in the environment (change lighting or away from distractions) can be effective.

Detective work requires trial and error.  Making notes of when behaviors occur and detecting patterns can be very effective.  At the same time, caregivers who practice patience,  stress reduction techniques for themselves will help their care partners, especially in times of challenging behavioral expression.

Gaining a foundation of experiencing their world is one of the most powerful and effective tools in building person centered care practices.  The transformative Dementia Live™Training and Education program is just that.  Effective, feasible and incredibly flexible, this program is available for elder care providers, hospitals, agencies and others to use with staff, families and as community outreach.  The AGE-u-cate® team has taken sensitivity awareness training to a new level with the Dementia Live program.  We encourage you to visit us at www.AGEucate.com for more information on how to bring Dementia Live™ or Compassionate Touch® to your organization.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those that care for them.   She and her team are the creators of the Dementia Live™ and Compassionate Touch ®training programs, empowering caregivers worldwide.  

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