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Whether communicated intentionally or not, all behaviours have meaning. Oftentimes, when a person’s standard methods of communicating become compromised in some way, messages are either conveyed in a more pronounced manner or they find a different path for their expression.  People with dementia can face changes associated with their ability to verbalize their thoughts or control their actions. In these cases, it is not uncommon that their communication approaches change in the form of behavioural responses to what is happening around them.

Responsive behaviours include but are not limited to wandering, aggression, repetition, shadowing and “sundowning” – engaging in increased activity in the evenings.

Most often, these responses are expressing some type of unmet need. Caregivers can learn how to interpret these behavioural messages to reduce anxiety and stress for both themselves and the person with dementia.

This effort includes recognizing the behaviour for what it is and not correcting the person with dementia or contradicting their view of reality. It also helps to consider the behaviour itself to identify possible points for intervention, such as what might have caused the behaviour, the individual’s known likes or dislikes, and the kinds of things that motivated or interested them before their diagnosis.  Overall, it is important to respect their feelings and work with them in their current perception of where they are. Arguing or attempting to use logic or reasoning will only enhance any feelings of frustration and anxiety for everyone involved.

The McCormick Dementia Services Enhanced Caregiver Education series offers Understanding Behaviours with Practical Strategies to help caregivers develop ways to identify and respond to the behaviours that can be exhibited by someone with dementia. The session teaches caregivers how to validate, understand and redirect these actions when needed.

The full education series provides practical tools and techniques to help caregivers who are looking for effective ways to help with day-to-day interactions and address such topics as communication, meaningful activities and personal care.

This free program is offered throughout the year, and registration is open for individual sessions or the full series. Contact us to learn more.