Understand the Person
There are many tasks that call for your attention, but take the time to know your patient; doing so can help prevent incidents in the future. It is important to understand what triggers stress, anxiety, and aggressive behavior. Document these known signs and establish a means for workers to easily access this information.

Clear Communication
Establish the best means of communication for each patient. Identify which patients may have complications with sight/vision or hearing, as you may need to alter your means of communicating in each unique case.  

If possible, eliminate all distractions and background noise when communicating. When speaking to a patient, do so from the front side on a diagonal. This will place you in a position where you are least likely to be hit if the individual becomes agitated. To establish a sense of trust, speak to them at the same level. If the patient suffers hearing complications, make sure that the appropriate aids are available. Take caution if they do not have hearing aids in. Do not startle them by quickly walking into their view. Make eye contact or gently touch them on the forearm to alert them of your presence. When speaking, speak slowly. Listen to their responses and pay attention to their mannerisms. Avoid disagreements and moments of tense feelings.

Remember that your emotions, both verbal and non-verbal, can affect the patients. Check and control negative emotions before you approach or interact with patients. At all times, keep focus on the patient. Do not get so distracted with coworkers or tasks that the patient becomes or feels ignored. Wear a smile and maintain a calm demeanor as you work. Do not speak about the patient to others as if the individual is not there. 

If communication falters or aggressive behavior begins, first try to defuse the situation and know when to clear the area if they would like to be alone. If the individual thinks that they need to go to a certain places or go see a certain individual, redirect them. This can be done by saying, “Today is Saturday and you don’t work on Saturday,” or by acknowledging what they have said and then changing the conversation.  

If there are places that the patient needs to know, mark them distinctly. Oftentimes, patients are distracted by doorknobs and find ways to exit. Eliminate the inclination to do so by painting the knob the same color as the door to blend in with the rest of the door.

Many times individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s will fixate on a subject matter. Acknowledge what they are talking about and then redirect them to a different topic. For example, they may be concerned about getting to work on time. You could tell them it’s a certain day of the week and they don’t work that day and redirect them to another activity at your facility instead.  

Ask a Safety Consultant