Long-term care: Dealing with difficult behaviours

Today, in a ‘regular’ long-term care unit, you can expect to see behaviours such as wandering

Consistency is key

The key to managing behavioural symptoms in any setting comes when a client is surrounded by people who are:

  • All giving the same messages and
  • All responding to behaviours in the same way.

The face of long-term care has changed

People are being cared for at home longer and so by the time they are admitted to a long-term care facility they require a higher level of care than in days gone by.

Front-line workers are now knowledgeable about cognitive illness and are trained and comfortable working with people who have dementia and in a long-term care setting, healthcare professionals engage many proven strategies when working with clients in an effort to reduce behaviours and improve quality of life.

Today, in a ‘regular’ long-term care unit, you can expect to see behaviours such as wandering or client’s not knowing where their rooms are. For mild behaviours such as this, one effective strategy found in many facilities are ‘Memory Boxes’ that are built outside each room for clients to house personal items and photographs that they can easily recognize. This is a gentle way of helping to re-direct or orient clients to new surroundings.

On a ‘behavioural unit’ within a long-term care setting, client behaviours are more severe or challenging and likely include behaviours such as:

  • aggression (physical, verbal)
  • violence (hitting, spitting)

There are many reasons for behaviours, but for a client with dementia, the long-term memory is often less impaired than short-term memory so it’s possible that certain behaviours may be based on their occupation, hobbies or past experiences.

The three ‘theories for behaviours‘ (Unmet Needs; Progressive Lower Threshold; Learning (ABC) Theory) are applied by healthcare professionals in order to help care teams understand potential causes for behaviours.

The fact is, the more a care team knows about an individual, the better chance they have to solve the mystery behind behaviours being displayed. Understanding a persons background can help determine which strategies and tactics to apply that may reduce anxiety and improve quality of life for their client.