Sunshine Books (Membership required)

By Jane Verity

When caring for a person with dementia, it is common to experience behaviour that could be interpreted as ‘challenging’.  When this happens, it is easy to think that no matter what is done or techniques used, the person is just going to be challenging.

A great way to remain focused on positive behaviour is to make a Sunshine Book.  The actual book can be anything from a pretty notebook or diary to a simple inexpensive exercise book. Only techniques that have been successful in challenging situations are written in this book such as a new way to approach a particular person or task.

There is no guarantee that what works one day will work the next or that what is successful for one person with dementia will work for another.  Experiment and learn by trial and error.

For example; ‘Anna’ is usually reluctant to go to the toilet when specifically asked, often resulting in incontinence.  Instead of asking Anna if she needs to go to the toilet, which Anna may interpret as the ‘parent’ checking up on the ‘child,’ you could say, ‘I need to go to the toilet.  Are you coming too?’  (Remember that this approach may be more appropriate with same sex carers or with women rather than with men)

If there is more than one person involved in their care, include name and date next to the entry in the Sunshine Book so that others can ask specifically what was done or said to dissolve the challenging situation.

Keep in mind the words of the old song; ‘It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it; It’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it.’  In the care of people with dementia,  tone of voice or facial expressions expressed by carers can be what makes the difference between success and challenging behaviour.

Carers need to: 

  • Be the one who guarantees and replenishes individuals
  • Be positive, constructive, and encouraging in daily interactions
  • Focus on what is important by asking, ‘Does this really matter?’
  • Look for and create situations that enable the person to experience success.
  • Be proactive in preventing challenging behaviour.

All behaviour is an attempt to communicate and challenging behaviour is a response or reaction to something that is not right for the person with dementia.


Further Reading – Click topic

  • A Positive Approach to Difficult 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 and discover successful strategies for preventing difficult behaviour)
  • The Bus Stop Band-aid – Members article – Jane Verity (Discover the emotions and reasons behind the words, I want to go home; learn positive ways to fulfil unmet needs and proven strategies to remove the necessity for the bus stop and other band-aid solutions. Also, learn why “Best” is the Enemy of Greatness.)
  • 10 Successful Solutions to the Shower Challenge – Members article – Jane Verity (Learn 10 reasons why people with dementia might refuse to shower and their 10 successful solutions; including: Living in the Past, The loss of Abstract Thinking, and Misinterpretation plus learn 3 helpful hints towards successful bath and 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 and sedative drugs that often are prescribed for so-called difficult 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 and 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 and using the right oils to lessen anxiety, agitation and 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 short article – Jane Verity (Discover 3 factors behind attention-seeking behaviour, the 5 secrets to “great” hugs and 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 and 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.)
  • Sure-Fire Trust Building – Members tip – (Discover how to establish trust with a person with dementia in a split-second, and how to avoid unconsciously triggering difficult behaviour.)
  • Creative Thinking Solves Toilet Challenge – Tip – (A professional carer’s tip to solving the challenge of a resident going to the toilet everywhere, but in the toilet, plus a fantastic question to ask when seeking constructive solutions to challenging behaviours.)
  • Ribbons Turn Shower Challenge into Bliss – Tip – (Read how one professional carer discovered successful showering through the magic of colour.)

Relevant Resources:

Spark of Life Club Program Educational Kit – A complete educational resource that enables you to bring the benefits of the Spark of Life Club Program to your facility.

How to dissolve difficult behaviour Program – ‘How to dissolve difficult behaviour’ introduces the Spark of Life Approach, which dissolves challenging situations and creates a nurturing environment where everyone can thrive – Visit our online store
Difficult Behaviour –How to Understand It, Deal with It and Prevent It – Manual – Jane Verity – Visit our Online Store
How to Truly Understand Dementia – A guide – Manual – Jane Verity – Visit our Online Store
Top tips to turn around Difficult Behaviour – A3 poster – Visit our Online Store
Nonviolent Communication – book – Marshall B. Rosenberg Ph.D. Puddle Dancer Press (2003) – Visit our Online Store