The most important guessing game you’ll ever play

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how drugs are being used to cope with challenging behaviors in elders as the first resort. Instead of the investigating the reasons for difficult behaviors and trying non-drug interventions first, a patient or resident is likely to receive some type of anti psychotic medication. Elder patients are at risk for more serious side effects including death as a result of these drugs.

As family members discovering the reasons for a behavior change can be our most important guessing game.

Here are some tips to guess with success

Start with the perspective that you will try multiple interventions outside of medication before going with a drug. If your family member is already receiving medications to address difficult behavior, still seek physical and environments causes and interventions with the hope that the drugs can be removed or reduced.
  1. If your family member works with outside caregivers, enlist their help or support. What has changed in your family member’s environment? Have they observed your family member grimacing or favoring a part of their body? Have they noticed that the bad behavior is related to a certain activity or time of day?
  2. Check the physical basics. Does your family member have any wounds or sores that could be causing discomfort? Don’t forget to check or ask them about their teeth and mouth.
  3. More physical basics…could they be constipated or having other digestive issues?
  4. Has anything about their current prescriptions been changed recently? I attended an educational program recently and a doctor who was lecturing about prescriptions drugs and seniors said “Assume any change is a side effect of a recently prescribed drug.”
  5. When was the last time your family member went to the doctor? Is it time for a check up or physical?
  6. What has changed in your family member’s environment? Is there a new caregiver? Has your family member’s routine been changed?
  7. What changes might you make to the environment or routine that might make a positive difference.
You can develop a list of things to try with your family member from answering these questions and then work your way through trying them to see if they help.

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