Of the many and varied effects of Alzheimer’s disease, distress is one
of the more difficult to manage. Maintaining a sense of calm yourself, and
mastering effective calming strategies to help the senior, are crucial for the
wellbeing of both the person with dementia and yourself.
Dementia care expert Teepa Snow recommends the following four techniques to address the root cause of the senior’s distress and to effectively de-escalate strong, negative emotions and behaviors
the person’s shoes. When a senior with dementia is distressed,
mimicking that distress, combined with active listening techniques, lets the
person know you empathize with his or her feelings. Try repeating back what you
hear the senior saying in a similarly distressed tone of voice. This will
reassure the person that you’re in this together, and that you accept and
understand the feelings being experienced.
“hand over hand” method. In a time of perceived distress, it’s typical
for a senior with dementia to reach one or both hands out to you for help. Take
one of the person’s hands, placing your hand beneath the senior’s palm, and
then place your other hand on top. Note that standing on the person’s dominant
side is always most comfortable for those with dementia.
exaggerated, deep breathing. Now that you’ve expressed your distress in
conjunction with the senior’s, and are providing comfort by holding hands,
begin taking deep breaths, emphasizing the exhale through the mouth. This
allows for a better flow of oxygen and helps restore calm.
the hands. Begin a gentle pumping motion with your hands, with a repeating
squeeze and release – like a heartbeat. The pressure should be applied from
your bottom hand, against the senior’s palm, while the top hand provides an
extra measure of comfort.
Throughout each of these steps, watch the senior closely to gauge
reactions, and switch tactics if you sense a particular one is causing
additional unsettled emotions.
For more tips and resources to help with effective management of difficult behaviors in dementia, call on THE MEDICAL TEAM. Our caregivers are highly skilled in specialized care for those with Alzheimer’s, and are on hand to help as much or as little as needed.
Our services are available throughout New Orleans, Detroit, Austin, Dallas, and the metro DC area. Contact us to learn more.