When you help an elderly person control or change their demanding or manipulative behavior, it is called “an act of caring.” It is so much easier to give in and give any demanding person what they want or just avoid the complainer. When the staff in a Nursing Home gives in to demanding behavior they may make other people resent the elder. Doing everything for the elder will make the elder more dependent than they need to be. By helping the elder, control or change their demanding behavior, through this “act of caring” you can help the elder to be more self- sufficient.
The act of caring or how to help an elder change demanding / manipulative behaviors:
- Set limits for what the staff will do and will not do. Set limits on what is acceptable behavior on the part of the elder and what is not. Give the elder clarity when you speak about the limits. “I really can’t discuss another resident with you.” “If you have a concern, I can get the supervisor for you but you don’t need to keep a report on the other shifts.” “I know you have told me several times how you don’t like the food, is there anything different you would like to talk about?”
- Expect the elder to be unhappy with the change and the setting of limits. The elder may be even more insistent than usual to get their way. The caregiver may need to keep reminding themselves that this is in the best interest of the elder.
- Help the elder who needs to be in control make as many decisions as possible. Give choices in what to wear, what activities to go to, “Would you like to take your shower now or after breakfast?” Build into your daily care ways to offer choices to everyone you care for. (Person Centered Care)
- Reduce the elder’s fear of loss of control by managing the elder’s behavior through action not re-action. Be pro-active in giving opportunities, instead of avoiding the demanding elder.
- Don’t get caught up in an argument with the demanding/manipulative elder. Say what you need to say, make sure your meaning is clear and fair (that you aren’t coming from a point of anger) and then move on.
- When you are setting limits, work as a team caring for the elder. Everyone needs to react in the same way and follow through with the setting of limits on the demanding behaviors.
Virginia Garberding, R.N.
Director of Education, The Wealshire, Lincolnshire, Illinois
Author: Please Get To Know Me – Aging with Dignity and Relevance