How to Reduce Aggression in Seniors
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.
What Constitutes 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.
What Triggers Aggressive Behaviors?
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:
- Does the behavior tend to occur at the same time every day?
- Is it exacerbated by the presence of a certain individual or when the client may be hungry or tired?
- Has the client suffered a recent injury or started a new medication?
- Are there physical signs that a violent outburst is building, such as increased activity or pacing, a frightened or angry look in the eyes, clenched fists, rapid breathing, or a flushed face?
Techniques for How to Reduce Aggression in Seniors
- Handle them gently.
- Avoid hurrying or appearing impatient or annoyed.
- Provide a predictable, calm environment.
- Make sure their needs are being met.
- If the person has dementia, remind them often who you are and why you are there.
When a combative situation does arise, the caregiver’s goal is to de-escalate the client’s reaction. Techniques for de-escalation include:
- Speak in a calm tone of voice while maintaining a calm, yet attentive facial expression and caring eye contact.
- Keep your voice low.
- Position your body at a slight angle rather than fully facing the client.
- Keep your body loose and avoid aggressive signals such as clenching your fists or crossing our arms.
- Don’t argue or try to reason with the client.
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.