Let’s understand screaming in the elderly

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Caring for the elderly, particularly those dealing with dementia, presents unique challenges that demand a nuanced understanding. One of the distressing behaviors often encountered is screaming.

 

In this blog, we will explore various aspects of screaming in the elderly, including strategies for managing this behavior. Drawing inspiration from insights shared by Rittenhouse Villages, a reputable assisted living community, we aim to provide practical guidance for families and caregivers facing this issue.

 

Root causes of screaming in the elderly

Screaming in the elderly can be attributed to various underlying factors. Among the common root causes are pain, fear, confusion, frustration, and the challenges associated with cognitive decline, especially in conditions like dementia (Figure 1). It is crucial to recognise that these behaviours often serve as a form of communication when verbal expression becomes challenging for the elderly.

 

Screaming
Figure 1: Reasons of screaming in the elderly people

Impact on the elderly and others

The impact of screaming in the elderly is multifaceted. For the individuals themselves, it can signify distress, discomfort, or an unmet need. Persistent screaming may lead to increased stress, anxiety, and a decline in overall well-being.

 

An elderly person who is agitated

Additionally, the behavior can take a toll on caregivers, family members, and fellow residents in care facilities. It can be emotionally draining, causing frustration and burnout among those caring for the elderly individuals’ well-being.

 

Caregiver stress

10 ways to manage screaming in the elderly

  1. Professional guidance

    Seeking professional assistance is a crucial step. Healthcare professionals can conduct a thorough assessment to identify any underlying health issues contributing to the screaming behaviour.

  2. Creating a soothing environment

    Modifying the environment is a crucial aspect of managing screaming in the elderly. Creating a soothing and familiar space can significantly reduce stressors. This involves ensuring proper lighting, minimising noise, and organising living spaces to be comfortable and reassuring. Consistent routines and familiar surroundings contribute to a sense of security, helping mitigate the occurrence of disruptive behaviors.

  3. Establishing consistent routines

    Routines provide a sense of security for elderly individuals, reducing anxiety and the likelihood of disruptive behaviours. Consistency in daily activities can help create a predictable environment.

  4. Enhancing communication

    Clear and simple communication is key. Adopting a calm and reassuring tone, maintaining eye contact, and using uncomplicated instructions are strategies that align with effective communication practices.

  5. Addressing physical discomfort

    Regular assessments of the elderly person’s physical well-being are crucial. Pain or discomfort may be an underlying factor contributing to the screaming behaviour, and timely intervention is essential.

  6. Encouraging social engagement

    Rittenhouse Villages emphasises the importance of social interaction. Loneliness and isolation can exacerbate screaming episodes, making regular visits from family and friends or participation in group activities vital.

  7. Distraction techniques

    Distraction can redirect focus and alleviate distress. Incorporating enjoyable and engaging activities, such as listening to music or participating in gentle exercises, can be effective ways to divert attention.

  8. Providing reassurance

    Verbal reassurance during episodes of screaming is essential. Letting the elderly individual know they are safe and supported contributes to a sense of security.

  9. Therapeutic interventions

    Exploring therapeutic interventions like music or art therapy, pets therapy, etc. can have calming effects on individuals with dementia.

  10. Medication

    In some cases, judicious use of medication may be considered. Medications can help manage symptoms associated with anxiety, agitation, or other contributing factors. However, it’s essential to approach medication use cautiously, under the guidance of healthcare professionals, and consider it as a last resort after exhausting non-pharmacological interventions.

Conclusion

Screaming in the elderly is a challenging aspect of caregiving, requiring a compassionate and comprehensive approach. By understanding the root causes, recognising the impact on both the elderly individuals and their caregivers, and employing a combination of management and environment modification, we can strive to create a more supportive and comfortable environment for the elderly. Collaborating with healthcare professionals and drawing on insights from reputable sources, enables caregivers to navigate this complex aspect of eldercare with empathy and effectiveness.

 

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