Frustration and anger are common responses in people with dementia. They might feel overwhelmed by a noisy, stimulating environment or become frustrated if they can't communicate effectively. As a caregiver, you want to fix the situation, but it's not always easy to calm the frustration. Redirection is one often effective tactic that moves the person's attention away from what's frustrating them to something else. These tips can help you use redirection.
While you'll find suggestions for several common redirection methods, it's important to personalize the strategies you use based on what works for your loved one. Try different strategies and watch how your loved one responds. Note the most effective methods and use them first the next time the person becomes frustrated.
Redirecting at the first sign of frustration can be more effective. It's easier for someone to calm down or let themselves be distracted when they're just mildly frustrated or annoyed. It's more challenging when they're completely flustered or have moved on to anger. Learn the signs your loved one shows as they start to get frustrated and launch your redirection methods right away.
Pay attention to the surroundings when they get frustrated. Look for common factors in those situations, whether it's the noise level, the type of activity or something else. When you have a clear idea of their triggers, you can avoid them or be prepared to redirect the person if you can't avoid the triggers.
Staying calm and being gentle with someone who's frustrated can help defuse the situation. Nonverbal cues can often be more effective than trying to talk through the situation. Approaching from the front and making eye contact is often calming. Make sure they know you're there before you touch them. Approaching from behind could startle them and cause more frustration. They might feel comforted by you touching their arm or holding their hand. However, some people don't find touch soothing, so pay attention to your loved one's response to determine if this is a good strategy.
Frustration is often a result of environmental factors, such as light, temperature, activity and noise. You might notice the person gets overwhelmed when the room is loud, busy or full of people. Maybe they struggle to express when they're too hot or cold, so temperature could cause agitation. A room that's too bright can be too stimulating, while a dim room may create shadows that can lead to confusion. Do a quick sweep of the environment to look for things that could be causing the irritation. You might say, "It's dim in here. I'm going to turn more lights on. Does this feel better?"
A change of scenery can be an effective redirection technique, especially if it's something about the current environment that's upsetting your loved one. Think about settings that make the person calm. Going outdoors often works well. Sunlight and fresh air can be calming. You might redirect the person by mentioning how pretty the flowers are in the garden and inviting them to go look at the blooms with you.
A simple redirection technique is to engage your loved one in an activity you know they love. Identify a calming activity that's easy to do so you can have it readily available when they get frustrated. This could include puzzles, baking, listening to music, crafts or watching TV. When you notice them getting frustrated, suggest doing the activity they enjoy.
Bridge statements help guide your loved one from frustration to something more positive. You can use this strategy when you can't easily move to a different environment, and you can eventually circle back to the issue at hand.
Say your mom doesn't want to take a bath. You might say, "I loved when you added bubbles to my bath when I was younger. Do you remember how we used to give each other bubble beards and push my rubber ducks through the bubbles?" You're redirecting from the current situation instead of trying to force her to take a bath. Once she calms down, you might say, "How about we add bubbles to your bath tonight?" You can ease into getting her into the tub.
It's natural to try to reason with someone, but this often creates more confusion for someone with dementia. Avoid reasoning, arguing or correcting if your loved one says something that doesn't make sense. Find a way to help ease the concern that also feels comfortable to you.
For instance, if your loved one thinks they see something that's not there, like bugs or critters, you might say, "I can see that they frustrate you" or "What do you think we can do to make you feel better about them?" If your loved one requests a specific meal but says they hate it when you're done cooking, you might say, "Oops! I forgot you don't like that. Why don't we see what else we can find to eat?" It's not always easy to stay calm in these situations, but validating their feelings or finding ways to redirect the conversation instead of correcting them can put them at ease.
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