A Positive Philosophy to Challenging Behaviour (Public article)

Public Article

By Jane Verity ©Dementia Care International

Members please log in and click this link A Positive Approach to Challenging Behaviour for an extended version of this article.

Challenging, physical and verbally aggressive behaviours have combined to become one of the three most common Occupational Health and Safety issues occurring within many facilities. However, these behaviours do not belong as an OHS issue.

When caring for people with dementia, we are not working with machinery but are caring for human beings. When they react with challenging behaviour, it is not because the ‘machines’ are faulty, it is because the way they are being treated is flawed.

People with dementia are incredibly vulnerable individuals with special and finely-tuned needs. They should not be expected to adjust their needs to routines and requirements; rather their care routines should be adjusted to meet their needs.

Understanding Challenging Behaviour

Challenging behaviour is a reaction to something that is not right for an individual person and generally occurs when the person has a need that is not being met. The need doesn’t have to be a physical one, but may be emotional or spiritual, such as the need for respect, love or happiness. Or the need might be something said or unsaid; something done or not done. Always remember to ask:

  • What is this person attempting to communicate?
  • What is the need that is not being fulfilled?

Knowing that challenging behaviour is a reaction to something that isn’t right or in other words, an unmet need the ‘challenging’ person may be indirectly attempting to say, ‘Please acknowledge me as a whole person and not only for my deficiencies and changed behaviour; for I am not in control of them. I cannot bear to constantly be reminded that I need help… that I am told when to go to the toilet; when to go to bed; when to eat and especially that I can’t go home.Being treated like has become my entire existence now, and it is absolutely soul destroying. I want to smile once more, laugh again and make light of it all. Please acknowledge me for all my beautiful human qualities, of which I still have plenty. The more you do this, the more these qualities will shine through and show the real me.’

Shifting Focus

People with dementia can be the greatest teachers in personal growth; if only their carers are prepared to learn from them. Instead of seeing them as the problem, reflect on what they reveal and take each opportunity to learn something new .
By trying to change others,  more challenging behaviours are created and maintained. When we change ourselves, we also change everyone around us!

To prevent challenging behaviour,  change focus from only looking at what’s wrong with the person physically, to compassionately searching beyond for what the person’s unfulfilled needs might be.

When challenging behaviour is experienced in our own families, colleagues, residents, or their relatives, we are the ones who define the behaviour as challenging. This is due to focusing solely on the problem, and seeign the situation only from one point of view. It is easy to see the block of marble and not the angel inside.
As His Holiness the Dalai Lama so simply explains, ‘Our actions create either suffering or happiness.

Further reading – Click topic

  • A Positive Approach to Challenging Behaviour – Members Article – Jane Verity (Read the full version of this article including understanding cause & effect, learn how to work with the need rather than against it & discover successful strategies for preventing difficult behaviour)
  • The Bus Stop Band-aid – Public & Extended Members Article – Jane Verity (Discover the emotions & reasons behind the words, ‘I want to go home’; learn positive ways to fulfill unmet needs & proven strategies to remove the necessity for the bus stop & other band-aid solutions. Also, learn why ‘Best’ is the enemy of greatness.)
  • 10 Successful Solutions to the Shower Challenge – Public & Extended Members Article – Jane Verity (Learn 10 reasons why people with dementia might refuse to shower & their 10 successful solutions; including: Living in the Past, The loss of Abstract Thinking, & Misinterpretation plus learn 3 helpful hints towards successful bath & shower times.)
  • Reducing Anxiety and Agitation with Aromatherapy – Members Article – E. Joy Bowles BSc. (Read how aromatherapy appears to be providing an alternative to the use of anti-psychotic & sedative drugs that often are prescribed for so-called challenging behaviours.)
  • How can Aromatherapy Help People with Dementia? – Members Article – E. Joy Bowles BSc. (Joy’s article reveals how the ‘sense of smell is non-verbal & can get through” to emotions when words fail’; the use of smells can help orient people with dementia to time and space; tips for choosing & using the right oils to lessen anxiety, agitation & depression.)
  • Turning Hassles into Highs – Members Article – Jane Verity (Learn simple strategies to turn negative experiences in every day tasks into real highs, ensuring successful outcomes for all; plus the two keys to how these techniques work.)
  • Hugs not Drugs – Members article – Jane Verity (Discover 3 factors behind attention-seeking behaviour, the 5 secrets to “great” hugs & 5 hints to check if a hug is creating discomfort in another person; plus a wonderful non-threatening excuse for exchanging a big hug.)
  • A Doorway to the Present – Members Article – by E. Joy Bowles BSc. (Learn how brain cells respond to incoming messages about odours & how we can use them to redirect or distract agitation; plus learn how odours can be used to encourage people with dementia back to the present.)

Relevant Resources:
Difficult Behaviour –How to Understand It, Deal with It and Prevent It – Manual – Jane Verity – Visit our Product Page
Top tips to Turn Around Difficult Behaviour – A3 poster – Visit our Product Page