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Behaviors vs. Reasonable Reactions in Dementia

Could the Behaviors of a Person Living with Dementia Just Be a Reasonable Reaction?

· Dementia 101,Alzheimer's Disease,Behaviors,Dementia Communicati,Reasonable Reactions

Behaviors vs. Reasonable Reactions

Could it Just Be a Reasonable Reaction?

Behaviors are defined as a response to internal and external stimuli. Period.

The way we behave does not emerge from thin air. There is always something that precipitates an action. It may be a desire, a habit, a pattern within a relationship, a trigger phrase, a heated argument, a feeling, a hidden emotion or a reaction to another person.

“Behaviors”, or manners in which we conduct ourselves, that we engage in stem from either a need or want to communicate something. Unfortunately, within the aging industry, the term “behaviors” is commonly used to describe the manner in which others act that we do not take the time to fully understand.

Terms such as hoarding, rummaging, wandering, disrobing are a few “behavior” terms used to describe actions taken by persons living with dementia. Additionally, it is important to recognize that the language we use to describe others affects how we feel about others. Negative language can hinder our ability to take perspective and our desire to understand.

Hoarding is described as the act of accumulating physical objects that either appear to be useless or are very difficult to discard.

Rummaging is described as the manner of actively searching in a place or receptacle; moving things around, turning things over, searching through contents.

Wandering is described as moving from place to place without a fixed plan

Disrobing is described as the act of undressing.

When we look at these examples I can name countless times when I have engaged in these ways, for a very good reason.

I love purses, shoes, and hats. Others may think I have an unnecessary amount of items, but for me, I enjoy having many choices. Additionally, I consider my collection of hats as my trophies from the various places I have traveled to. This may be considered hoarding, but I consider it collecting.

I rummage on a daily basis… through the vegetable drawer for the carrots, the dresser drawers for my favorite comfy socks, the junk drawer for my keys or lipstick. Some may consider this rummaging, but I consider it searching ( and hopefully, finding).

Walking my dog every day can feel like an aimless wander without a fixed plan. The reality is, I often let him lead the way and determine how far we will walk in the snow and cold. This may be considered wandering to some, but I consider it my meditative exploration.

I don’t know about you, but I take my clothes off multiple times a day. Some may call this disrobing, but I consider it living comfortably.

With all this being said, we encourage you to take a look at the actions you take, the actions others take and the language you use to describe it. Is it possible that the “behaviors” you witness are in fact a response to internal and external stimuli? Are behaviors actually Reasonable Reactions to the environment we create for others and around others? Could behavior be considered a form of communication that begs us to dig deeper into understanding and compassion? This is good Food for Thought!

~ Written by Cathy Braxton, Chief Education Officer

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