Alzheimer's: When Past Pain Erupts Into Unpleasant Behavior
One of the most heart wrenching things to witness is when people struggle with past pains and hurts. It’s not uncommon to stuff these sorrows down and avoid ‘dealing with them’. By not adequately acknowledging these wrongs – whether by abuse, loss, etc., they may have the tendency to come back when we are no longer able to control our past burdens.
Behavioral disturbances are worthy of investigation and may even help to understand your loved one’s reactions.
Persons living with Dementia and Alzheimer's are at an increased risk of exhibiting behaviors that seem to erupt out of thin air. Sadly, there are likely triggers that brought up the memories of ‘feelings’ that were once felt. Most times, persons living with dementia cannot express what their fears, angers and concerns are. They just know that they ‘feel’ these uncontrollable urges to REACT — sometimes with tears, and other times with violent outbursts.
I recall one gentleman who had a propensity for becoming angry and yelling at others around him. The facility Administrator shared with me that there seemed to be no actual event to spark such behavior. He suffered unbelievable repercussions as a result — being committed for a 72 hour observation — of which, he never forgot or forgave. Following my involvement, I sought to uncover the layers of pain and anger this man had bottled up. Upon my discussions with him and attempting to understand his past, I learned of many dark, painful memories he had carried with him for years. These haunting memories were unknown by his family or wife of 60+ years. The adult children only knew their father as very distant and angry. The truth was so different from their perception.
While not every behavioral concern is based on the past, one must still do their due diligence to determine if the outbursts are due to medications, a urinary tract infection, a neurological disorder, pain, etc.
When I obtained permission to share the events of the past to the family, they were able to see their father with a new set of eyes. The pain that the father inflicted upon them was now dealt with in a healthy, productive manner. This breakthrough took time, but those caring for this gentleman were now able to adjust their own actions – and reactions – based on the understanding of the triggers that elicited such outbursts. A new family relationship was born and tears of acceptance from one another continues to warm my heart to this day.
Caring for a loved one can certainly take a toll on most people. While not every behavioral concern is based on the past, one must still do their due diligence to determine if the outbursts are due to medications, a urinary tract infection, a neurological disorder, pain, etc. Behavioral disturbances are worthy of investigation and may even help to understand your loved one’s reactions. Take time for yourself, perhaps reflect upon your own triggers and past difficult memories. By recognizing our need to deal with hurts in the present, we can all put the past to rest.