A new way to handle ‘badly behaved’ older adults

Tase them! This isn’t the first time a nursing home resident has been tased and it won’t be the last. It should cause alarm bells to be clanging in the hearts of everyone caring for an aging loved one. We aren’t given details in the report (I’m waiting for Paul Harvey to fill us in with “the rest of the story”), but it’s very disturbing to think that a professional caregiver felt it necessary to call in outside enforcement.

I’ve been in tough situations with residents. I recall Ann in a dementia care community I managed: she believed herself to be a nurse by day, thought she needed to free fellow residents by night. When our dementia care community’s water pipes sprung a leak and we needed to evacuate residents just after bedtime, Ann seized the opportunity. She attempted to wake her fellow “inmates,” instructing them to “Leave now. Run. Head for the door.” Ann shook her finger at me, inches away from my face, and through gritted teeth called me a whole bunch of nasty names that I will leave to your imagination. I wanted Ann to calm down, but knew that I was the one who needed to take a break, leave the community, and breathe.

Working in a nursing home, an assisted living community, and especially with people who suffer from diseases that cause dementia is exhausting. Not only do professional caregivers deal with repetitive questions, but they can also be subjected to fits of mind-boggling anger. We must put ourselves into the reality of the other person. If we can’t, then ask a colleague to step in. But it’s unfair to call local police, who have little, if any, training in redirecting older adults who are acting out symptoms of their disease.

We must—simply must—become better educated about all things aging. Did the staff understand Zheng Diao and why he was holding a scissors to his throat? Was this common behavior or a significant change in his personality? How had he been cared for in the past? A thorough list of questions needs to be addressed before we better understand why this situation could not be handled by a professionally trained staff.

The Star Tribune reported that both attorney Mark Kosieradzk and Joe Rodrigues, president of the National Association of State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs, have never heard of a resident being tased. They are ill informed. It happened in Peru, California, when an officer tased a man with Alzheimer’s who had become combative. I addressed this incident in my interview with trainer Pam Brammann, where we discussed the benefits of a well-trained staff.

The two tasing incidents (of which I am aware) may be rare. I can only hope. Let this be yet another wake-up call for a global understanding and continuing conversation about all things aging. Behaviors are symptoms of someone’s disease being acted out. When we learn what these symptoms are and how they can manifest, we are then equipped to handle these outbursts without the need of tasers.

Categories: Caregiving Issues, Dementia, The Aging Process, The Unexpected Caregiver Radio Show

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