“No! I’m not doing that. Are you crazy?” Every care partner has heard a version of that coming from a person living with dementia.
I learned a lot about the anger and aggression that seem to be part of living with dementia from:
- my own experience and mistakes
- watching the best practice and mistakes of others
- drawing on the work of dementia care pioneers
To help us all I created a simple, memorable fivefold approach to avert potential conflict and/or to defuse it if and when it’s not possible to avert it.
BANGS is mnemonic for five ways anyone can use to avert and defuse conflict with people who have Alzheimer’s dementia.
Here are all links to all the letters in the mnemonic:
This post is about the “B” in BANGS.
“B” is for breathe
Duh, you may say, and you’re right. Breathing seems like such a basic thing, why should we have to be reminded to do it? But think about it. How many times have you been in a stressful situation, and the first thing you do is hold your breath? Yeah, me too.
What we really need to do is the opposite: breathe. Consciously.
It’s well-known that breathing, especially deep breathing, calms and clears both the body and the mind and enables us to respond in productive and useful ways rather than to react in ways that add fuel to conflictive fires. That’s what meditation and yoga are all about.
Dementia care expert Teepa Snow says you should consciously–and physically when required–step back from potentially difficult situations.
Take three slow, deep, cleansing breaths, and mentally prepare yourself before engaging the person and the situation; you will be far better equipped to manage your own emotions and be effective.
Author Naomi Feil calls it “centering.” She says it’s critical to release one’s own emotions in order to be able to listen empathetically to another person. Feil outlines this five-step process in her book The Validation Breakthrough:
- Focus on the spot about 2 inches below your waist.
- Inhale deeply through your nose, filling your body with air.
- Exhale through your mouth.
- Stop all inner dialogue and devote all of your attention to your breathing.
- Repeat this procedure slowly eight times.
I don’t think it matters if you breathe three, five, eight, or more times, as long as you stop whatever you’re doing and breathe deeply in and out.
That’s the key. Slow, deep intentional breaths. Had I breathed more, I would have broken less!
Here’s a two-minute clip about “B is for breathe”:
Don’t want to end up in a “shoot-out” with a PWD? Use BANGS.
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