Why Do Dementia Patients Respond with “Fight or Flight?”

This is the first of three newsletters devoted to presenting methods of working with dementia residents in a potentially more productive manner. All of us know what a tough job you have, and you have our respect. We hope these methods help both the resident and you.

Background: Certain parts of our brain protect us by responding immediately to dangers without thinking. Other parts of the brain evaluate the danger and then we decide on a course of conduct. With dementia residents, the evaluation part of the brain does not commonly work well, and they are left with the immediate response without thinking. The classic example is that we see a snake and we jump. If our evaluation part of our brain is working, we see that the snake is a “garden” snake and is too far away to hurt us.

Dental example of needed resident cooperation: One important resident care area is dental. The lack of cooperation from a dementia resident can prevent necessary daily oral care from occurring. The lack of proper oral care is known to impact not only the resident’s mouth but is generally accepted as predisposing these residents to systemic diseases such as NH-acquired pneumonia, cardiac disease and cerebral vascular accidents and hyperglycemia.

Methods of working with the dementia resident:
Here are some initial tips that can be used to potentially allow more productive interactions with a dementia resident.

  1. Approach the resident at eye level and not above them: Standing tall over a resident may trigger concern in the resident. You want to try when possible to lower yourself so you are less threatening.
  2. Smile: A resident may not be able to “read” your many possible expressions and therefore fear you. A simple smile is easy for the resident to read and allows them to remain calm.
  3. Come alone: Try to go to see the resident alone rather than with another person or two. A group of people coming towards a resident may cause fear.

There will be two more newsletters coming soon which will collectively set forth 12 more methods for working with the dementia resident.

All of the Comprehensive Mobile Care associated Providers and their support staff understand these 15 methods and use them for better interaction with the dementia resident.

SOURCE: Brookdale Leadership in Aging Foundation, Rita A Jablonski PHD, CRNP et al