Care Partnering, Challenges & Solutions, Tips, tools & skills

B is for breathe in BANGS


B is for Breathe


“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:

“B” is for breathe.

“A” is for assess, accept, and agree.

“N” is for never, never argue

“G” is for go with their flow, let go of your ego, get over it, get on with it, get down to it

“S”  is for say you’re sorry (again, and again, and again!)

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:

  1. Focus on the spot about 2 inches below your waist.
  2. Inhale deeply through your nose, filling your body with air.
  3. Exhale through your mouth.
  4. Stop all inner dialogue and devote all of your attention to your breathing.
  5. 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.


“B” is for breathe.

“A” is for assess, accept, and agree.

“N” is for never, never argue

“G” is for go with their flow, let go of your ego, get over it, get on with it, get down to it

“S”  is for say you’re sorry (again, and again, and again!)


See also: Teepa Snow demos 10 ways to calm a crisis with a person with dementia

If you like what you’ve read,

why not subscribe to my free updates?

4 thoughts on “B is for breathe in BANGS”

  1. Sounds so easy but it’s not. Thanks for this reminder.

    I used to leave my mother’s room, come back in again and start all over. Sometimes that would be all the break my mother needed to calm down.

    Later on I’d go into my car, close all the windows and yell.


    1. LOL! Oh yes, I’ve been there. So has every other dementia care partner on the planet 🙂

      Those are two excellent pieces of advice:

      1) leave the room, count to 10 or 100 or whatever, breathe, remind yourself that it’s not the person, it’s the disease, or maybe even it IS the person AMPLIFIED by the disease, get in control of yourself and then go back in calm, cool and collecte. Yes, that has worked for me too.

      2) afterwards, go somewhere else and yell, scream, cry your heart out and/or share your frustrations in a safe space/place or do whatever works for you/use whatever valve is most effective to release the pressure.

      Thanks and welcome to MAS ❤


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s