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Behavior means...
Thursday, July 25, 2013
Since as far back as I can remember I've been fascinated by people's behavior. As a kid in a fairly normal family I'd wonder why, for example, my sister was throwing a temper tantrum about eating all  her carrots. Then later I marveled over what lengths people would go to get what they wanted. Once, when I waited in line at a grocery story, I saw an elderly lady (I wasn't elderly myself yet.) with a few items standing behind me. I said, "Why don't you go first. You only have a few things." At that a man behind her, evidently her husband, with a cart loaded with groceries, pushed ahead of me to join her. I was more curious than angry (annoyed, yes; angry, no). No words passed; they just took advantage.
Perhaps that is why I ended up a psychiatric nurse. During my medical surgical nursing experience I was far more interested in learning about and comforting people than the science of nursing. I think I was, in spite of that, a good nurse.
Now I help families understand the behaviors of a family member with a cognitive disorder. Why does she repeat herself? Why does she simply leave the room when company comes? Why isn't she eating:? Why can't he take a bath anymore by himself? These are common questions that can be answered and understood. If we understand a behavior we can figure out how to work with the person.
Now it isn't the dementia that baffles families, it is the behaviors that occur as a result of the disease of dementia.
 First, all behavior means something. It is goal oriented I want, I need, I feel, are all goals. Find out what they need, want, or feel and you are half way there. Does she need help? Is he feeling left out of the conversation? Does she want company? a drink? toileting? something to do?
Coaching helps with understanding these behaviors; that is the joy of my work with families. That's why I wrote the books I did. Simply to educate. So, educate yourself if you are caring for someone with dementia. It will make all the difference in the world to your days.
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