The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Using Behavior Management to Deal with Acting-Out

 In our March 2nd blog, we talked about how LBD damages a person’s ability to control their behavior and how action follows closely behind feeling. Therefore, it is actually the caregiver’s behavior, and perhaps even more importantly, the caregiver's attitude, that must be managed/changed to decrease LBD related acting out. Here are some things you can do:

Take your time. Dementia slows everything down and it can be stressful to try to keep up.  Talk a little slower and give your loved one lots of time to answer. It might help to silently and slowly count to ten before expecting an answer. When helping your loved one bath or eat or anything else, don’t rush even if you are feeling time pressures. It really won’t take that much longer because your loved one will be more able to cooperate.

Practice feeling calm. As communication skills decrease, perceptions increase. Lewy folks pick up on tensions easily. However, their interpretation skills are flawed. They may identify hidden anger at a situation, for instance, as a rejection of them—and act out. And so, work on feeling (not just acting) relaxed when you are around your loved one. It helps them to stay calmer too.

 Have reasonable expectations. Don’t expect more than your loved one can give. As Lewy takes away their abilities, it becomes hurtful to challenge them to “do better,” or “try harder” or to remind they how easy a task “used to be.” And when Lewy folks feel hurt, or when they feel they've let you down,  they act out.....

 “It’s the disease talking, not my loved one. It’s Lewy, not…..” Make this your mantra. It will help you to ignore Lewy’s hurtful behavior and you will find it easier to maintain a loving, caring attitude.

And finally, use touch and an affectionate tone of voice. These elicit positive feelings and decreases acting out. Dementia does not take away the enjoyment of loving behaviors. A hug, a gentle pat, a soft, loving tone all decrease stress and thus, acting out.

Do you have any suggestions that have worked for you?


  1. I agree with everything you have said. This illness drives me nuts, as it has changed me so much, and that causes upset and distress to all around. I do and say many things which are not intended, it just happens, but sometimes people don't accept that its the illness, and put it down as agression or rudeness, and these are sometimes people who should know better. Still we have an illness we did not want and did nothing to attract, so we have to get on with it as best we can.
    Best Wishes


  2. Ken, Have you checked out the forums on the Lewy Body Dementia Assn. ( website? There's one for early stage LBD folks that you might like to join. Helen Whitworth

  3. What a kind, compassionate couple you must be. My husband, Richard, died January 25. I miss him every day but will always be proud of the way we faced our Lewy Body life together.

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  5. Thank you, Jo Ann. Lewy body disorders are never easy but dealing with LBD as couple makes it much less scary for the LBDer. Knowing that you and your husband did this together is definitely something to be proud of.