Dealing with Aggression in Memory Loss Patients

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Hi, and welcome to our caregiver training series. I’m Nick and I’m one of the team members here at myCNAjobs. Today we’re going to be talking about aggression in memory loss patients. Aggression from patients is a scary reality many Caregivers and CNAs deal with everyday, and when working with memory loss patients it can be even more challenging. It’s important to think of aggression as a symptom of the disease. It’s not personal and it’s not their fault. Aggression in a patient suggests an underlying medical, psychological, or social problem causing discomfort. Often times memory loss patients have trouble communicating these issues which lead to aggressive outbursts. When it comes to dealing with aggression, prevention is key. Understand what some of your patient’s triggers may be, and work to avoid those situations. When an aggressive outburst does happen, you should focus on de-escalation. Here are 10 basic techniques for effective de-escalation, which can help reduce or even stop the agitated state of your patient. They are: Active listening, effective verbal responding, redirection, “fiblets,” stance, positioning, time, not jumping to conclusions, controlling the environment, and teamwork. Active listening means taking the time to listen to a patient, and effective verbal responding means thinking about what to say in response. Try to find a helpful way to respond that can ease your patient’s agitated state. Redirection is a technique where you help the patient focus on another task or subject to take their mind off whatever they’re stuck on that’s causing them to be upset. Fiblets are little white lies to help calm a patient momentarily until they move on to another area of focus. It’s important not to tell a big lie that, if exposed, could cause the patient to become more upset. Stance and positioning refer to how you, the Caregiver, can position yourself when dealing with an aggressive patient. Keeping a slightly wider than usual stance allows you to stay balanced and move with your patient safely. Positioning yourself to the side of your patient rather than directly in front of them helps keep you out of harm’s way, and maintaining a distance of around six feet will help you stay safe from a patient striking you, as well as help the patient feel less threatened. Time is an extremely valuable technique to use, meaning you can wait for their agitated state to wind down by giving them the time and space to do so. Not jumping to conclusions goes along with active listening, meaning you take the time to hear out why the patient is upset and not assuming the reason to be obvious. This is especially important for patients who have a habit of being aggressive - never jump to the conclusion it’s always for the same reason. Controlling the environment refers to making the area safe for yourself, the patient, and other patients and staff members. This could mean moving other patients and staff out of the way, removing objects from the area that could be used to cause harm, or blocking routes the patient could use to leave the area. The final technique is teamwork. The staff must work together to ensure all patients and care providers are safe. If you’re working alone with a patient in home care, teamwork means reporting the patient’s state properly, as well as being in touch with your care manager. After an outburst of aggression, there are many responses a patient or Caregiver may have. Patients may feel guilt or surprise, or they may not remember the incident at all. As a Caregiver, it’s important to take care of your own needs as well. Dealing with events of aggression can be exhausting and scary, so make sure to take the time to evaluate how these incidents affect you, and reach out for help if needed.

That’s all for this lesson. If you’re looking for a Caregiver or CNA job near you, you can visit Or, if you’d prefer, you can call to speak directly with a recruiter at 773-270-3899.  That’s 773-270-3899 - we have CNA and caregiver jobs available across the nation so chances are there’s a job near you.

Dealing with aggression in patients is a scary reality that many Caregivers and CNAs have to work with every day. When presented in a patient struggling with memory loss, it can be even tougher. In this video, we’ll go over helpful topics in dealing with aggression in memory loss patients. This includes what causes aggression in patients, strategies for prevent aggressive outbursts, and 10 basic tips for de-escalating patients who are showing signs of aggression. These will help keep you and your patient safe and happy.