Managing Nursing Home Residents With Aggressive Dementia

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As cognition declines in an elderly dementia patient, they can become aggressive for a myriad of reasons. Your role as a nursing home administrator or nurse is to keep such a patient calm without allowing them to harm themselves or other residents. What tactics should the staff employ?

Respond Calmly and Professionally

Your own response to interactions with the resident is important. When an aggressive resident lashes out or begins to shout at you, staying calm and redirecting behavior might reduce the length and severity of their outburst. Don't respond to insults with your own. If you start acting nervous and angry, that could upset other residents and your staff instead of de-escalating the situation, which is the goal. Other staffers may take their own cues from your response, so model professional, unruffled behavior for everyone. 

Look for Triggers

Many times, you will be able to notice when a resident with dementia is becoming agitated. This is key; catching them in this state could help you and others avert a full meltdown. Start looking for times when this agitation occurs. Does it happen if they don't get their medication at a certain time? Do they act out when certain foods are served? Do they dislike shower or bathing times? Actively looking for these triggers and intervening with action early could help eliminate times of more serious aggression.

Take Good Notes

Good nurses' notes and aide observations can help manage the behavior of a resident who is getting ramped up because of their mental condition. Notes allow the resident's physician to get a clearer understanding of their daily behavior, and they might adjust, eliminate or introduce new medications which could work. Notes may also provide some protection for the aides, nurses and nursing home in the event that aggression does involve altercations with other residents.

Discuss Situations Frequently

Every aide or nurse on every shift may have a different way of approaching an aggressive resident. Some people may have more success with their techniques than others do. Everyone working with that resident must be 'on the same page'; frequent discussions should reveal what works for them and what doesn't.

Encourage all aides and nurses to utilize these tactics with aggressive patients. If trouble continues, you might call in an ABA (applied behavior analysis) therapist. Such analysts can assess the resident's environment, make recommendations, and introduce reinforcement techniques which should reduce aggressive behavior.

For more information, contact a company like New Way Day Services.