Handling Aggression with Redirection
If you are a family caregiver, you probably have encountered a situation where your loved one was upset about something and you were not sure what caused it or how to handle it. Unfortunately, aggression is a common symptom of specific dementias as the disease progress. Its causes can be varied, but a lot of it can stem from your loved one feeling confused. Sometimes aggression is the result of confusion in your loved one as a result of changes in their surrounding environment. Sometimes confusion results from untrue beliefs they hold, like believing someone has stolen their purse or wallet. These situations can be difficult to navigate, but we hope to provide you with some tips to consider when handling them.
The primary thing to remember when your loved one is experiencing negative emotions like aggression is to redirect them. By “redirect” we mean to divert their attention to something else, like an activity or a new thought.
This maneuver can be difficult since an aggressive emotion can often elicit a negative reaction from you. If your tone is angry or aggravated, it can exacerbate the situation. Remember that whenever you are confronted with a situation like this, your tone and facial expressions should remain calm and comforting. Reassure your loved one that you are there to help and manage the situation.
Here are some suggestions to help distract your loved one during difficult situations:
- Therapeutic lying: Therapeutic lying is a technique where you address your loved one’s “problem” in a way that is meant to calm them down even though it might not be true. For instance, consider the “stolen” purse or wallet example. You may know that your loved one’s money was not stolen, but they do not believe that. Therapeutic lying involves recognizing your loved one’s frustration, acknowledging that their emotions are real, and addressing it. Addressing the situation means that you may have to tell a small fib, like saying “I will make sure to call the police to report the stolen wallet and we will solve this problem, okay?” This statement is probably not true, but you are just using it as a way to help your loved one calm down. It is a very effective technique prescribed by many elder care counselors.
- Change Environments: Sometimes “triggers” in the environment can contribute to negative feelings and emotions. Many times, caregivers do not know what these triggers are. As a result, you are not left with much to do other than removing your loved one from the environment that is troubling them. Another idea is to keep rooms well-lit. Sometimes, dark rooms can cast long, unfamiliar shadows that contribute to feelings of confusions and contribute to illusions or hallucinations.
- Try to change the topic: Ask them if they need a snack or if they want to use the restroom. Guide them to the kitchen and ask them if they want to help you put away dishes. Or you can guide them out of the front door to “get a breath of fresh air.” Think of easy transitional topics that can help distract your loved one.
As you can see, this situation can vary from person to person. You know your loved one the best and only you can think of topics and other ways to change contexts. Most importantly, remember to be calm and collected and acknowledge your loved one’s feelings as true and valid, because they are.
If you have any questions, feel free to call ElderCare at Home at 888-285-0093 or visit our website!