Caring for someone with dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease or Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), can be challenging as the individual progresses through each stage of the disease. Those with progressive dementia often experience mood issues or confusion, which can contribute to tense situations. Although you may encounter emotionally fraught scenarios while caring for a loved one with dementia, practicing de-escalation strategies can help minimize frustration for all involved. Here, we share a few de-escalation tips to keep in mind.
Most care partners are highly empathetic people, but it’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment when emotions are running high. When you’re faced with a difficult situation with the person you’re caring for, try to put yourself in their shoes and approach the circumstances with empathy. Individuals with dementia are dealing with a challenging condition 24/7. As they begin to lose control of their mind and body, it’s understandable that they may be more prone to irritability or anxiety. Even if the anger toward you is misdirected, try to see the problem from his or her eyes so you can find solutions to proceed.
Shift the Focus
When a situation begins to escalate, try to change the mood by shifting the focus to something more pleasant. If the individual is expressing frustration or anger in a general way, consider switching to a subject that they enjoy talking about or going outside for a change of scenery. Regardless of why the person is frustrated, it’s crucial to remain calm and avoid tense body language, such as clenching your fists or setting your jaw.
Focus on Feelings Rather Than Facts
If your loved one is angry for a seemingly irrational reason, it can be tempting to use logic to de-escalate the scenario. However, this is often counterproductive and can lead to even more anger and frustration. Whenever possible, avoid using combative or argumentative language such as “no” or “you can’t.” Instead, try saying, “Why don’t we do that later?” or “Let’s do this first, and then we can do that, OK?”
Aim to understand why the person is feeling angry or frustrated and, if possible, work together to find solutions for the future.
Seek Professional Help If Necessary
As your loved one progresses through the stages of dementia, you may discover that he or she is experiencing more frequent anger or frustration. If aggressive situations become more common and more difficult to de-escalate, seeking professional help may be necessary. In some cases, an adjustment in treatment may be appropriate. In other cases, identifying the trigger(s) and finding new ways to navigate these events may be helpful.
When your loved one has been diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia or another type of progressive dementia, anger, frustration, or aggression may become more common. Although it’s difficult to be in a confrontational situation, the de-escalation strategies mentioned here will help you navigate challenging emotions. Being a care partner for someone with LBD can be both emotionally and physically taxing, so you’ll need support from those who understand the experience. Our helpline is available each day of the week, and you can reach us at 833-LBDLINE to discuss anything related to LBD, or send us an email at any time.