Assessing what someone needs

There may be patterns or triggers to look out for - some of these behaviours may occur at predictable times of the day, in certain places, or with certain people or during particular activities.

What to look for

  • Emotional – anxiety and anger may be a response to visual hallucination. This may be communicated by verbal outbursts, repetitive questioning or by facial expression.
  • Level of stimulation – a person may be bored, overwhelmed, or have low social contact. This can be communicated by repetitive physical movement, touching, talking or apathy.
  • Physical – a person may be in pain or discomfort. This can be communicated in a number of ways, depending on where the discomfort is (e.g. rubbing face (dental pain); pulling at clothes, or fidgeting in chair (needing to go to toilet)).
  • Low self-worth – a lack of positive experiences or lack of control can lead to a person hiding or hoarding things.

Looking further

Sometimes, a declared need reveals an underlying need.

So a person asking to see his mother (who is likely deceased) may in fact be seeking the reassurance that she once offered.

A person living in a care environment who expresses a desire to go home may have interpreted their new surroundings as a hotel, so feel they should leave soon.

Paying attention to what someone is saying, noticing their body language, facial expression and the context (such as time of day or place) can help us to understand what is really going on.

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Dementia Care: Staying Connected and Living Well

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