One of the greatest challenges families and care professionals face in caring for people with dementia is responding to agitation. When I train caregivers, a strategy we stress is to avoid the things which cause agitation, instead of having to respond to it. And there is ONE technique that is most important to avoid conflicts when someone is confused or disoriented.
FOCUS ON FEELINGS, NOT FACTS
Agitation is usually a result of a communication conflict. Caregivers tend to focus on correcting the person with dementia about facts they’ve misstated or forgotten. At a recent support group meeting we discussed this. With her permission, I share the response from one of our members:
They do not need to live by facts anymore as that is not the world they are living in. I’ve been thinking a lot about it and am really understanding that their feelings of their story is a comfort to them. They don’t have the ability to process feelings the way we can, so supporting those stories helps them feel supported – like they matter. I think that is critical in their lives. They may feel that they can’t contribute anymore therefore they are not important/they don’t matter.
There is a great benefit when caregivers focus on feelings; quickly caregivers see results. She continued:
If we add excitement and enthusiasm or at least agreement to their story, they perhaps feel validated and a bit more significant. I’ve already been applying this since I returned home. Thank you again for imparting such wisdom.
Thank you to Brenda M and all of the participants in our support groups. Your courage and emotional generosity inspires US each month.
Let us know what techniques you have found successful to prevent agitation.