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Responding to Challenging Behaviors with Positive Communication

There’s a reason why patience is one of the most important virtues required for caregiving. Providing quality in-home-care services requires compassion, empathy, and a willingness to listen. It may take time to understand a new client and how to communicate effectively. Each individual has there own sets of needs, preferences, and triggers, even when they share the same illness or disabilities.

Responding to challenging behaviors is where patience is needed most. The goal is always to de-escalate the situation and respond with positive communication, so that the client feels heard, cared for, and safe. Challenging behaviors are tough, even for well-seasoned caregivers. This is why the other priority with challenging behaviors is prevention.

Understand What Triggers Challenging Behaviors

The first step in responding to challenging behaviors is understanding the unique triggers for each individual. Some may be specific to physical capabilities. For example, a client may become frustrated when they are not physically able to do something that they used to be able to do with ease. Other times, triggers can be psychological or sensory. Loud noises, for instance, are a common trigger for seniors who have dementia.

When a challenging behavior is triggered, the first step is to reassess the situation. Is there a reason for the behavior? Is there a physical need that isn’t being met? Is the client struggling to communicate something? Once a caregiver understands what is causing the behavior, steps can be taken to de-escalate.

How to Prevent and Avoid Challenging Behaviors

The best way to address challenging behaviors is always to prevent them from occurring in the first place. This requires observing clients and a willingness to understand all aspects of their personality and limitations.

However, prevention oftentimes isn’t an option. Challenging behaviors can be triggered by all sorts of things, and new ones can arise. When faced with a challenging behavior, caregivers have several options:

  • Redirect. Give the client something to do, or engage in an activity with them.

  • Reassure. Sometimes a client just wants to feel cared for and safe. This is especially true for seniors who have dementia.

  • Relocate. If the trigger is due to the immediate environment (such as a loud noise or too many people), relocate to a calmer, quieter place.

  • Reconsider. Caregivers need to put themselves in their clients’ shoes and understand things from their perspective. This can help caregivers if they’ve missed something in their observations of the situation.

  • Provide. If the trigger is due to an unmet need, such as the client wanting to rest or have something to eat, caregivers can provide these things in a safe and mindful way.

  • Report. If new challenging behaviors arise, it is best to report them to case managers, the client’s family members, and whoever else may need to be kept informed.

Responding with Positive Communication

Caregiving establishes a therapeutic relationship, where the clients’ needs are the top priority. If a client becomes verbally or physically aggressive or agitated, it is up to the caregiver to remain calm and respond positively. Use calm statements, give space, reassure, refocus, and redirect whenever possible. Clients rely on caregivers to be their anchors, which is why simply remaining calm can help de-escalate challenging behaviors.

Strategies for Managing Specific Behaviors

Repetitive Behaviors

  • Redirect by going for a walk, making a snack, or engaging in some kind of creative activity such as a boardgame.

  • Give the client something repetitive to do, such as folding towels.


  • Make sure the client feels safe

  • Report anything alarming to the case manager, in-home care agency, etc.

  • Reassure the client that you are there for them


  • Assess what needs might not be met and provide accordingly

  • Redirect with a calming activity

  • Create a quiet and calm environment

Agitation and Aggression

  • Make sure both client and caregiver are safe

  • Check for physical triggers that may be causing the behavior

  • Always try to work on strategies for prevention

  • Reassure, agree, and use positive statements

  • Give space to protect both caregiver and client

Rely On In-Home Care Agency Support

When it comes to managing challenging behaviors, it is okay for caregivers to rely on support. A reputable in-home care agency never wants their caregivers to feel like they have to go it alone. At Alegre Home Care, all caregivers are encouraged to reach out to in-home care staff and managers for support.

To learn more about home care in San Rafael, CA and the surrounding areas, call Alegre Home Care for a FREE CONSULTATION at 1-800-598-4777.


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