A lot of information has been published about how caregivers can recognize and report senior neglect and abuse. It is a devastating problem that is far too common. Unfortunately, many caregivers find themselves feeling like victims of another kind of abuse…the kind that is initiated by the senior and aimed at the caregiver. Learning how to reduce aggression in seniors is a key for caregivers suffering from this type of abuse.
Abuse is the deliberate mistreatment of an individual with the intent to impose physical or emotional harm. In the case of caregivers who are charged with the responsibility of caring for a senior, there is rarely a pre-meditated intent on behalf of the senior to exhibit violence toward their caregiver. It is, therefore, important to recognize that such tendencies aren’t about misbehaving out of spite and the combative tendencies are not the result of poor caregiving.
When reviewing the lengthy list of causes for combative or aggressive behavior, it is little wonder that most caregivers must eventually cope with these tendencies as part of their job description. Combative clients are often victims of dementia or psychiatric disorders. Triggering factors include pain, physical illness, low blood sugar, seizure activity, and adverse reactions to medications. Delusions and hallucinations also contribute. Regardless of the cause, such behavior adds to the burden of the caregiver and requires techniques for minimizing and coping with such episodes.
Family members who are caring for loved ones should report new aggressive behavior to the medical team, who will want to observe and document any behavioral patterns and possible causes. Professional caregivers will want to learn as much as possible about their clients’ combativeness tendencies before assuming the challenge. It is imperative to understand the following when coming up with a plan as to how to reduce aggression in seniors:
When a combative situation does arise, the caregiver’s goal is to de-escalate the client’s reaction. Techniques for de-escalation include:
Regardless of whether the caregiver is a family member or a professional, the more they understand about Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, as well as the aging process in general, the more equipped they will be to function from a point of empathy and respect at all times and in all situations. That alone will help with minimizing aggressive behavior in seniors.