Putting Yourself in Your Parent’s Shoes to Help You Deal with Challenging Behaviors

Caregiver Bellevue WA

Caregiver Bellevue WA

Being a caregiver for a senior with Alzheimer’s disease can be one of the most challenging experiences that you face in your life. It can feel as though you are always facing the unexpected or the unknown, and trying to keep up with a progression that you do not understand. One of the greatest challenges that you may face is when your parent begins to exhibit challenging behaviors. A large percentage of adults who develop Alzheimer’s disease will develop negative behaviors, such as lashing out, resisting, kicking, spitting, biting, or using profanity. Other times you may just find that your loved one does not seem to want to cooperate with you or go along with any of the care efforts that you are trying to accomplish. When this happens you can feel out of control and like you are not doing anything that your parent needs. By putting yourself in your parent’s shoes you can help yourself to better understand, and therefore resolve, these challenging behaviors.

It is important to note that challenging behaviors are a function of the disease, not a willful decision for your parent to be difficult or cause you trouble. Shifting your thinking from the idea that your parent is being hard on you or causing problems to the fact that the disease is causing issues can reduce your stress and help you to show greater compassion. When it comes to putting yourself in your parent’s shoes, you must remember that seniors with Alzheimer’s disease can lose their ability to communicate properly. They have the same needs that you have, but may not recognize them, understand them, or have the capacity to express them effectively.

Try these ways to put yourself in your parent’s shoes to help you deal with challenging behavior: 

  • Take an inventory of your needs. Think of all of the different needs that you have. These are the things that you have to have in order to thrive, including food, water, shelter, love, comfort, sleep, security, and safety. Take an inventory of how you experience each of these needs on a daily basis and then how they feel when they are not fulfilled. Now imagine that you are feeling these compulsions, but do not understand what they mean or what it would take to fulfill them. This is what it may be like for your aging parent. They could be dealing with an unfulfilled need but not know exactly what it is that they are feeling, or how they can resolve it.
  • Pretend you cannot speak. Go back to your inventory of needs and think about the usual ways that you express those needs. Usually this involves speaking. If you have not eaten enough you might say “I’m hungry” or “when’s dinner?”. If you are dehydrated you might say “I’m thirsty” or “can you bring me a glass of water?”. If you are in pain you might say “my hip hurts” or “can you look at my back and see if there is something wrong with it?” Speaking is the way that you engage with the world and fulfill needs. Now pretend that you cannot speak. How would it make you feel to not be able to express these needs effectively? This can help you to understand what your parent might be going through when they know what they are feeling or what they need, but cannot express it.
  • Express yourself. Now that you have imagined what it would be like to have unfulfilled needs and not be able to speak about them, think about how you would go about expressing them. What would you do to let the person caring for you that you were hungry, thirsty, in pain, tired, afraid, needed to go to the bathroom, or felt sick? Try to put yourself in that position and think of the ways that you would express yourself. You might find that you come up with many of the same “negative behaviors” that your parent expresses, giving you greater insight into what they go through and how you can help them.

If you or an aging loved one are considering Caregiver Services in Bellevue WA, contact the caring staff at Hospitality Home Care today. Call us at (206) 966-6552.