Home > Behavior, Diagnosis > Old Habits . . .

Old Habits . . .

How well do you know your residents?  It always amazes me how easy it is to explain a “behavior problem” by doing a little digging into the resident’s baseline personality, or what his daily habits were when he was younger.  Here’s an example.

A woman in her late 90s was admitted to a facility’s dementia unit in transfer from another facility, after having been determined to be inappropriate for that facility due to behavior problems.  Initially, I heard that she was wandering into other residents’ rooms at night, and was having some other issues as well.  Then I lost track of her for a couple of months.

Today, I was talking to one of the aides in the dementia unit, who shared with me some interesting information about this particular woman.  Apparently, she had formerly worked as a nurse.  In fact, she was a charge nurse who was on duty at night.  It was her habit, when she was working, to quietly look into each of her patients’ rooms during the night to check on them.  Someone realized that this is exactly what she was doing in her new environment.  She didn’t make any noise, and didn’t disturb anything.  She was just following the same routine she had for many years.  The night staff began to quietly keep an eye on her, to ensure that no problems arose, and encourage her to sit in a recliner in the common area of the unit, when she finished her “rounds,” tucking her in with a blanket when she nodded off to sleep.

And, to make this dear soul feel even more at home, they fixed up a mock chart for her, with blank copies of nurses’ notes and order forms, and she would happily sit and leaf through her chart, making notes as the mood struck her.  She now is relatively happy and contented, and for the most part gets along just fine with the other residents on the unit.

Speaking of old behavior patterns, here are a few more that are worthy of mention.  First is the person who, in his younger days, is always busy.  He works three jobs to provide for his family.  When he isn’t working, he’s fixing things around the house, helping out his neighbors, volunteering at church, and so on.  This is your wanderer.  He has never been the kind of person who sits down and does nothing.  Chances are that if you try to make him do so, he’s going to react negatively.

Or, a woman may have lived in a very rough neighborhood.  She made it her habit to, several times during day and night, get up and check her windows and doors, ensuring that her family was safe from harm.  Now, she can’t break the habit.  She will worry endlessly, accusing her roommate of stealing her clothes.  Or she may imagine that man down the hall is staring at her while she sleeps.

I sometimes wonder what personality traits, or what habits, will come out when I’m old and confused.

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