"Betty was having a particularly tough afternoon. As the hours wore on, she started to become agitated with the people around her. She was wandering with an angry look, cursing, unwilling to listen, and trying to push people away if they became physically close. Betty repeated to herself, 'I want to go home; I want to go home.'
I stepped in to help calm Betty and prevent any further escalation. Approaching Betty gently, I presented myself in a calm manner with a smile on my face. I spoke to Betty in a calm, monotone voice. I played soothing sounds, used a lavender essential oil blend aromatically, and gave her a light touch so she knew that she was safe. Betty calmed down within minutes and even wanted to spend more time together."
Betty lived in a memory care facility. Appealing to Betty’s senses helped to deescalate the moment (visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile stimulation) and made her feel calm, while it made me feel confident and competent for helping her. After, it was easier for Betty to remember who I was (how she felt around me) and continued to feel at peace when she saw me. She learned to attribute positive feelings and behaviors with me. She was calm; I was happy. Win, win!
Many individuals with dementia are over medicated simply due to the symptoms they display as their disease progresses. When situations like these occur, as mentioned above, those caring for them are usually quick to medicate with unnecessary psychotropic medications, like an anti-anxiety or anti-psychotic, to calm the person down. The down fall is that, although the person may become calm, she likely will become more confused, disoriented, and a fall risk, at minimum. However, with patience, training, problem-solving, and treating clean, medication is not necessarily needed.
Connecting with the person through sensory stimulation by trialing non-pharmacological interventions is the key to success, both for the person being treated and the person treating them. Betty not only received the benefits of feeling calm and safe, she also received side benefits of remembering me because of the way I made her feel. And I benefited because I felt confident and competent using successful interventions with her! Additionally, my facility benefited because our psychotropic PRN count didn't go up, which would have affected my quality measures in long-term care.