Manchester care specialist Shafaque Khan aims to help people caring for loved ones deal with challenging behaviour without putting themselves at risk.
“People with medical conditions or health problems such as dementia or learning disabilities can suffer from mood swings, and become fearful and agitated, even in response to simple things,” says Shafaque.
“At times some people can display ‘challenging’ behaviour, which puts the individual or others at risk of physical harm or exclusion from aspects of life such as education, work and relationships.”
Shafaque says: “Challenging behaviour can include being aggressive, destructive, or disruptive, verbally, non-verbally or physically. That could include shouting, hitting, breaking things, stealing, or even eating inedible things.” This differs from conflict, where people’s needs, interests, concerns and opinions differ. Conflict is a normal part of life, at work or in relationships.
Shafaque, who owns Avant Healthcare Services in South Manchester with husband Kashif, runs a team providing care to people in their own homes, and says understanding the reason for challenging behaviour is key to preventing it.
“If people are asked the same questions repeatedly, such as, ‘Have you taken your pills?’ they may get irritated. Some may have recurrent unpleasant thoughts but no-one to share them with, so they take it out on their carer. They might be anxious, bored or in pain.”
It may be tempting to argue or get angry, but instead, says Shafaque, it’s best to focus on remaining quiet, calm and patient – while ensuring you are safe at all times.
“Avoid repeatedly insisting they do something. Calmly say you are there to help them, and explain the benefit of doing what you are asking. Be patient – they may need time to understand what you are saying.”
Gestures such as gently holding their hand or touching their shoulder may help calm them. You can remind them of your usual mutually respectful relationship by using phrases such as, “I’m caring for you and you usually listen to me.” Distracting them may help.
If nothing helps, call other members of the family, or their social worker (if they have one) and discuss what is triggering the problem and how it can be tackled.
“You can also call us for advice or help with any aspect of caring for a loved one,” says Shafaque. “I and my staff have been trained in dealing with challenging behaviour.”
Sally Graham, national Managing Director of Avant Healthcare Services, says: “We invest heavily in training, coaching and mentoring our employees to effectively manage challenging behaviour and we work with our customers and their families to tailor our services to their unique needs.”